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6/1/2022 McGaw bill would prohibit all high-heat waste incineration
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Michelle E. McGaw has introduced legislation to prohibit any type of new high-heat solid waste processing facilities in environmentally sensitive areas in Rhode Island.

The bill expands on legislation enacted last year (2021-H 5923Aaa, 2021-S 0527)  to prohibit new high-heat medical waste incinerators near residential neighborhoods, schools, nursing facilities and delicate environmental areas. Representative McGaw’s bill (2022-H 8286) expands the prohibition to apply to all types of high-heat waste incineration — also known as pyrolysis — not just medical waste.

The legislation is a response to efforts in Rhode Island and nationwide backed by the American Chemistry Council, a plastics industry advocacy group, to reclassify the process of high-heat burning of plastic waste as manufacturing instead of waste management. The plastics industry calls this process “advanced recycling,” but the few such facilities that exist in the United States do not recycle plastic into other plastics; instead they produce synthetic fuel, which is burned there or elsewhere, and waste byproducts. Environmental groups say the process emits just as much carbon pollution as ordinary incineration, both from the fuel used for incineration, and in the use of resulting the synthetic fuel.

“Rhode Islanders and the General Assembly spoke loudly and clearly last year when we said we didn’t want pyrolysis of medical waste in our state. “’Advanced recycling’ is just pyrolysis for plastic waste. It’s not manufacturing — it’s solid waste management, and we need to treat it as such, keeping all the environmental protections necessary in place. Pyrolysis requires a lot of fuel to keep temperatures high, and it doesn’t make toxic, polluting chemicals disappear. It’s not the panacea that the plastic industry wants us to think it is, and I doubt there are many Rhode Islanders who would welcome this type of facility in their town,” said Representative McGaw (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton).

Representative McGaw added that allowing such facilities would also run counter to the Act on Climate, landmark legislation enacted by the General Assembly last year to commit to a carbon-neutral future.

The legislation enacted last year was pivotal to the Department of Environmental Management’s denial of permits for MedRecycler-RI Inc., which had proposed a facility on the West Warwick-East Greenwich border that would have accepted 70 tons of medical waste daily from across New England and burned it at extreme temperatures. The proposal prompted public outcry as well as protests from environmental protection groups.

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923