After dying in the House, advanced recycling bill hangs on in the Senate

After dying in the House, advanced recycling bill hangs on in the Senate
A recycling container in Richmond, Va. (Source: Sarah Vogelsong/Virginia Mercury)

While a proposal to add language to state code classifying advanced recycling as manufacturing rather than waste management activity died abruptly in House committee this week, the legislation is still alive in the Senate.

“I’ve got to be honest, on the one hand, people say, ‘We need fewer landfills, let’s regulate landfills, let’s get rid of landfills.’ On the other hand, this is a bill that says, OK, we’re going to bring in an industry that’s going to create something from this waste, and people are opposed to that,” said Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, during a Thursday meeting of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee.

Opponents, however, pointed out the laws proposed in this session has no effect on whether advanced recycling facilities can open in Virginia. One company, Braven Environmental, has already announced plans to build a plant in Cumberland County after receiving $215,000 in grant funds from the commonwealth as an economic incentive.

Instead, the twin laws — House Bill 2173 from Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax, and Senate Bill 1164 from Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta — aim to define advanced recycling as manufacturing rather than waste management, bringing them outside the purview of Virginia’s Solid Waste Management Act.

Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor told the Senate panel Thursday that the change “primarily is a code clarification as I understand it” and confirmed that the classification means that the facilities would not be subject to the regulations imposed on landfills.

“I believe the way our regulations are written right now it might not be classified as solid waste anyway,” he added.

Asked whether the bill would mean that an advanced recycling facility would not need to obtain a solid waste permit from the agency, a DEQ spokesperson pointed to a section of the Virginia Administrative Code that states that plastics are exempt from solid waste management regulations “provided that they are reclaimed or temporarily stored incidentally to reclamation, are not accumulated speculatively, and are managed without creating an open dump, hazard or a public nuisance.”

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