I’m going to need your help with this one!
The City of Chula Vista’s Sustainability Commission accepted a presentation last month from Enerra, a company that is proposing to “convert” plastics into diesel and other chemical elements. Despite mine and other staff’s attempt to convey that this proposal does not fit with in our circular model of managing materials and certainly not in our zero waste plan. They accepted the company’s concept and will be voting this Monday, March 14 to send a recommendation to City Council in support, (letter and agenda attached).
Enerra is making the rounds, expect them to come to cities near you with similar proposals, the Cities of Palmdale, Bloomington and Salinas are already in agreements for bond financing through the California Pollution Control Financing Authority which is different from their claims assuring that they were fully funded and do not require partnering jurisdiction financial support.
Feel free to send comments on this proposal to: S...@chulavistaca.gov in time for the meeting.
Dear Laura and all,
Thank you for raising this request for support to stop a plastic to fuel project in Southern California. This reminds me of dozens of similar projects that have been stopped in California and many other states over the past two decades! Here’s a lot of detail that will be helpful to anyone having to deal with hype from Big Oil or companies like this, organized into the following sections:
Burning plastic as fuel is incineration & widely opposed by NRDC, WWF, GAIA, Break Free From Plastic movement, and many others
Overwhelmingly, the movement to break free from plastic opposes plastic to fuel. This is another way to burn / incinerate plastic. In many cases, industry is using terms like “chemical recycling,” “advanced recycling,” “plastic to fuel” interchangeably, and in most cases are using gasification incineration or pyrolysis incineration. Despite the industry hype, there are extensive environmental and health drawbacks as described in this new GAIA factsheet “Plastic to Fuel: A Losing Proposition”
The NRDC report concluded:
"Using pyrolysis and gasification to convert plastic into fuel should not be considered recycling, and recycling standards must continue to exclude such processes. Plastic-to-fuel is not considered recycling by ISO standards, the EU Environmental Commission, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and many other groups. Despite the fact that plastic-to-fuel does not recycle plastic, the industry continues to strongly support it. This is likely because plastic-to-fuel creates a mirage of “recycling” to assuage public concerns about increased plastic use and waste but does not disrupt new plastic production. This paves the way for continued profits and the expansion of plastic production facilities. Ensuring that plastic-to-fuel remains excluded from official definitions of recycling will make it difficult for plastic manufacturers to succeed in this greenwashing."
Additional resources: GAIA has several technical analyses, reports about facilities in U.S., funds wasted on failed gasification & pyrolysis over the years, and more here: https://www.no-burn.org/chemical-recycling-resources/
Reuters Special Report calls this approach “littered with failure”
A Reuters Special Report called “Big Oil’s Solution for Plastic Waste is Littered with Failure” documented several failed similar projects in the United States, including Renewlogy, the company associated with Dow Chemical’s “Energy Bag” program (which appears to have changed course away from plastic to fuel).
Questions we should ask when confronted with plastic to fuel / incinerator projects (on page 9 of this factsheet).
Observations based on the extremely limited information on the company’s website
We are happy to be available as resources on this issue, and hope Chula Vista will focus on waste prevention strategies like reuse systems, refill programs, and other waste reduction approaches.
Monica Wilson (she/her), Associate Director/Global Programs Coordinator
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