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EPA’s move on PCBs to improve recycling

United States – The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed an interpretation of regulations concerning the management and recycling of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), according to a report from Bloomberg BNA.

The interpretation applies to plastic scraps that contain PCB levels of less than 50 parts per million, the EPA has explained in a recent notice in the Federal Register. ‘EPA is adopting the generic 50 ppm exclusion for the processing, distribution in commerce and use, based on the agency’s determination that the use, processing and distribution in commerce of products with less than 50 ppm PCB concentration will not generally present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment,’ it stated.

The new interpretation will ‘generate environmental benefits and protect human health’ by promoting recycling and preventing PCBs from entering the environment, the agency argues. The exclusion will not apply to plastics containing PCB concentrations greater than 50 parts per million. Under the final interpretation of the rules, recyclers must follow a list of voluntary procedures, established by the US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), which seek to prevent the introduction of PCBs into recycled plastics.

These involve the development and introduction of a documented materials management programme. ISRI believes that the interpretation will reduce oil consumption by 30 million barrels per year, eliminate up to 5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and save more than 50 million cubic yards of landfill space. ISRI’s president Robin Wiener says the development will ‘enable more recycling’, adding: ‘The technologies for separating and recycling the plastics are already being employed in Europe and Asia, and the agency’s action will now allow similar investments to be made here in the US, instead of overseas.’ For more information, visit: www.epa.gov

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