House leadership kills contested ‘advanced recycling’ bill

Updated at 4:57 p.m.

PROVIDENCE – A contested bill that would have eased regulations for high-heat plastic recycling plants will not make it beyond the Senate this year.

House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, D-Warwick, and House Majority Leader Chris Blazejewski, D-Providence, issued a joint statement on Tuesday saying the House will not take up the “advanced recycling” bill. 

“We are a member-driven body and our members have spoken to us loudly and clearly that they have serious unresolved questions about this bill,” they said in the statement.

Companion legislation passed in the Senate earlier this month by a 19-14 vote, but has not yet had a committee hearing in the House.

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The House bill, which was sponsored in the Rep. Stephen Casey, D-Woonsocket, sought to exempt so-called “advanced recycling facilities” from going through the typical state  review and regulatory process that governs solid waste operations. The legislation defines these facilities as those that receive, store and convert plastics into recyclable materials.

While the legislation aims to divert materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill into reusable products, it has drawn staunch criticism from lawmakers and environmental groups, who liken these recycling facilities to the medical waste treatment plant company that unsuccessfully sought to open in West Warwick last year. Like MedRecycler-RI’s medical waste plant, these recycling  facilities would rely on a high-heat conversion process known as pyrolysis to burn and break down the plastics into recycled material.

While the legislation for plastics recycling expressly bans some of the hazardous medical waste and other substances that MedRecycler would have shipped in, critics maintained that the conversion process is hardly an environmentally-friendly one, instead creating “climate-damaging emissions and air pollution,” according to a statement from the Conservation Law Foundation.

Shekarchi and Blazejewski also called the bill a “step backward” in the progress on state environmental legislation achieved in this session.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, D-North Providence, who voted for the Senate version of the bill, said in an emailed statement on Tuesday, “We respect the House’s position on this bill, and we look forward to continuing to work productively with them to enact strong environmental legislation.”

(Update: Adds comment from Ruggerio in final paragraph)

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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