Environmental Justice Leaders Sound Alarm About Dangerous Plastics Bill

May 18, 2022


Contact: KT Andresky, breathefreedetroit@gmail.com

Environmental Justice Leaders Sound Alarm: Chemical industry’s push to rebrand toxic processes as “advanced recycling” threatens to worsen environmental racism

Lansing, MI – Grassroots members of the Michigan Environmental Justice Caucus acted quickly last week to sound the alarm on Senate Bill 954, sponsored by Senator Aric Nesbitt, that would re-classify toxic plastic reprocessing technologies as “advanced recycling,” and exempt reprocessing facilities from health-protective regulations. In response to the call from the grassroots members of the Environmental Justice (EJ) Caucus, 20 organizations joined forces and sent a letter condemning SB 954 to State Legislative Leaders, Governor Whitmer, and EGLE Director Liesl Clark. 

“The environmental justice movement fought for years to shut down a horrible incinerator in our city – and this is the same thing with a different name,” said Kathryn Savoie of the Ecology Center. “It’s going to harm predominantly Black & brown communities. The plastics and fossil fuel industries are trying to push something we don’t need and make it sound innovative and harmless when it’s not. No matter what you call it, it’s burning plastic & harming our communities.”

“Chemical recycling industries that heat plastics to make fuel need to be regulated as incinerators,” said KT Andresky, organizer with Breathe Free Detroit. “If these facilities are not more strictly regulated, they will continue to increase cancer risks for people who live nearby, like my friend Emily who just had a mastectomy at age 38, because she lived near the Detroit incinerator and breathed in the hormone-altering, burnt plastic pollution for years.” 

“Pyrolysis, gasification, and other so called ‘advanced recycling’ facilities are permitted to release chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer, neurological damage, or other serious health effects like birth defects – and most are cited in communities that are disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and low-income,” said Ahmina Maxey from the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, drawing on recent research from the Natural Resources Defense Council.  

“This so-called ‘advanced’ technology has been around for 30 years, and it’s been a technological and economical failure,” said Monica Wilson, Associate Director of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. “Most of these projects turn plastic (which is made from oil and gas) back into a fossil fuel that’s burned, releasing harmful emissions that threaten our climate and public health. It’s time for the petrochemical industry to scale back single-use plastic.”

“No matter our race, income, or zip code,” the letter states, government regulators “are tasked with protecting the health of all residents.” The letter closes by urging lawmakers “to oppose Senate Bill 954 and to continue to oppose “advanced recycling,” and place the health and wellbeing of Michigan communities above the profits of the plastics industry.”