[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 239 (Wednesday, December 12, 2012)]
[Pages 74006-74010]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-29904]



[EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-0902; FRL-9371-9]

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs); Recycling Plastics From 
Shredder Residue

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Request for public comment.


SUMMARY: EPA is seeking comment on an interpretation of its regulations 
currently under consideration that would generally allow for the 
recycling of plastic separated from shredder residue under the 
conditions described in the Voluntary Procedures for Recycling Plastics 
from Shredder Residue, relying principally on the regulatory provisions 
for excluded PCB products. The interpretation described in this notice 
responds to questions EPA has received about the applicability of the 
excluded PCB products regulations.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before January 11, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by docket identification 
(ID) number EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-0902, by one of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
     Mail: Document Control Office (7407M), Office of Pollution 
Prevention and Toxics (OPPT), Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 
Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460-0001.
     Hand Delivery: OPPT Document Control Office (DCO), EPA 
East Bldg., Rm. 6428, 1201 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC. ATTN: 
Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-0902. The DCO is open from 8 a.m. to 
4 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. The telephone 
number for the DCO is (202) 564-8930. Such deliveries are only accepted 
during the DCO's normal hours of operation, and special arrangements 
should be made for deliveries of boxed information.
    Instructions: Direct your comments to docket ID number EPA-HQ-OPPT-
2012-0902. EPA's policy is that all comments received will be included 
in the docket without change and may be made available online at http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided, 
unless the comment includes information claimed to be Confidential 
Business Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is 
restricted by statute. Do not submit information that you consider to 
be CBI or otherwise protected through regulations.gov or email. The 
regulations.gov Web site is an ``anonymous access'' system, which means 
EPA will not know your identity or contact information unless you 
provide it in the body of your comment. If you send an email comment 
directly to EPA without going through regulations.gov, your email 
address will be automatically captured and included as part of the 
comment that is placed in the docket and made available on the 
Internet. If you submit an electronic comment, EPA recommends that you 
include your name and other contact information in the body of your 
comment and with any disk or CD-ROM

[[Page 74007]]

you submit. If EPA cannot read your comment due to technical 
difficulties and cannot contact you for clarification, EPA may not be 
able to consider your comment. Electronic files should avoid the use of 
special characters, any form of encryption, and be free of any defects 
or viruses.
    Docket: All documents in the docket are listed in the docket index 
available at http://www.regulations.gov. Although listed in the index, 
some information is not publicly available, e.g., CBI or other 
information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Certain other 
material, such as copyrighted material, is not placed on the Internet 
and will be publicly available only in hard copy form. Publicly 
available docket materials are available either in the electronic 
docket at http://www.regulations.gov, or, if only available in hard 
copy, at the OPPT Docket. The OPPT Docket is located in the EPA Docket 
Center (EPA/DC) at Rm. 3334, EPA West Bldg., 1301 Constitution Ave. 
NW., Washington, DC. The EPA/DC Public Reading Room hours of operation 
are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal 
holidays. The telephone number of the EPA/DC Public Reading Room is 
(202) 566-1744, and the telephone number for the OPPT Docket is (202) 
566-0280. Docket visitors are required to show photographic 
identification, pass through a metal detector, and sign the EPA visitor 
log. All visitor bags are processed through an X-ray machine and 
subject to search. Visitors will be provided an EPA/DC badge that must 
be visible at all times in the building and returned upon departure.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peter Gimlin, National Program 
Chemicals Division, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, 
Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., 
Washington, DC 20460-0001; telephone number: (202) 566-0515; email 
address: gimlin.peter@epa.gov.


I. General Information

    This notice is directed to the public in general, and may be of 
interest to a wide range of stakeholders, including private citizens, 
federal, tribal, state and local governments, environmental consulting 
firms, industry representatives, environmental organizations and other 
public interest groups. Since others may also be interested, the Agency 
has not attempted to describe all the specific entities that may have 
interest in this notice. If you have any questions regarding the 
applicability of this action to a particular entity, consult the person 
    EPA is considering an interpretation of its regulations that would 
generally allow for recycling of plastic separated from shredder 
residue under the conditions described in the Voluntary Procedures for 
Recycling Plastics from Shredder Residue (Ref. 1), relying principally 
on the regulatory provision for excluded PCB products at 40 CFR part 
761. In the interest of transparency, EPA is inviting the public to 
provide comments as part of this process. EPA has opened the docket for 
public comment for 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. 
Details on how to provide comments to the docket are provided under 

II. Background

    EPA was approached by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, 
Inc. (ISRI), regarding separation, recycling, use, and distribution of 
recycled plastics from shredder residue recovered from metals recycling 
facilities (referred to by ISRI as automobile shredder residue (ASR) 
aggregate). In a February 24, 2011 letter, ISRI requested ``written 
confirmation that separating plastics from ASR aggregate for use and 
distribution in commerce, using processes that reduce any PCBs that may 
be present to a level at or below which there is no unreasonable risk, 
is authorized'' under regulations promulgated pursuant to the Toxic 
Substances Control Act (TSCA) (see 16 U.S.C. 2605(e)) (Ref. 2). ISRI 
stated that:

    * * * analysis shows that the separation, recycling, 
distribution in commerce, and reuse of plastics from shredder 
aggregate is consistent with existing authorizations that allow the 
use and distribution in commerce of products that contain low levels 
of PCBs, including provisions for ``excluded PCB products'' and 
``excluded PCB manufacturing processes'' (as defined in 40 C.F.R. 
Sec.  761.3).

ISRI also stated that resolving regulatory uncertainty could lead to 
investments and further development in innovative methods to separate 
plastics from ASR aggregate that would produce broad environmental 
benefits and increase global competitiveness (Ref. 2).
    ISRI developed a set of voluntary procedures designed to prevent 
the introduction of PCBs that are regulated for disposal into recycled 
plastics recovered from shredder residue generated by metal recycling 
facilities. The Voluntary Procedures for Recycling Plastics from 
Shredder Residue (Ref. 1) includes development and implementation of a 
documented materials management system through: (1) Documented source 
control programs aimed at preventing the introduction of PCBs regulated 
for disposal into the shredder feedstock materials that contribute to 
any shredder residue from which plastics will be recovered for 
recycling; and (2) documented output control programs for facilities 
processing/producing/recycling plastics from shredder residue. The 
Voluntary Procedures for Recycling Plastics from Shredder Residue and 
supporting materials are available at EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-0902.
    According to ISRI, 1 to 2 million tons of plastic are generated 
annually in ASR aggregate, most of which could be separated and 
recycled rather than disposed using novel technologies (Ref. 3). ISRI 
further delineates that the most common automotive plastic categories 
are polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), polyurethane (PU), and 
polyvinyl chloride (PVC). ISRI also mentions acrylonitrile styrene 
butadiene (ABS) and high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) as additional types 
of automotive plastics found in ASR. By assuming that the 1 to 2 
million tons of plastic generated from ASR annually, when characterized 
by the percentage of total scrap plastics from a typical 2001 vehicle 
(Ref. 4), this would imply the following total annual volumes: PP 
(22.1%): 221,000-442,000 tons; PU (19.3%): 193,000-386,000 tons; nylon 
(12.4%): 124,000-248,000 tons; PVC (7.9%): 79,000-158,000 tons; ABS 
(7.4%): 74,000-148,000 tons; PE (4.4%): 44,000-88,000 tons; 
polycarbonate (3.9%): 39,000-78,000 tons; other engineering resins, 
including HIPS (10.9%): 109,000-218,000 tons; polyvinyl butyral (2.1%): 
21,000-41,000 tons; other (9.8%): 98,000-196,000 tons. However, ISRI 
notes that not all of these plastics are currently technically or 
economically feasible for recovery. But, ISRI highlights several 
plastics as likely candidates for recycling. These are PP, high-density 
PE, ABS, HIPS, and PU foam. Recovery of these plastics would require 
installation and operation of new or modified material separation 
    To characterize the potential benefits of recovering and recycling 
plastics in ASR aggregate, ISRI commissioned a report from Nathan 
Associates, Inc. (Ref. 5). This report estimates economic benefits and 
environmental improvements from separating, sorting, processing, and 
recycling plastics found in ASR aggregate rather than disposing this 
material. In brief, the report finds that allowing plastics in ASR 
aggregate to be recycled would create demand for new capital equipment 
to be manufactured, installed, and operated in material separation 
facilities. This would lead to increased economic

[[Page 74008]]

activity both directly through purchase, installation, and operation of 
this equipment, as well as indirectly through increased demand for 
intermediate goods and services. The report also estimates positive 
environmental impacts on energy consumption, greenhouse gases, water 
use, and landfill space if virgin plastics were replaced with recycled 
    EPA believes that recycling turns materials that would otherwise 
become waste into valuable resources. Recycling includes collecting 
recyclable materials that would otherwise be considered waste, sorting 
and processing recyclables into raw materials such as fibers, 
manufacturing raw materials into new products, and purchasing recycled 
products. Collecting and processing secondary materials, manufacturing 
recycled-content products, and then buying recycled products creates a 
circle or loop that ensures the overall success and value of recycling. 
Ultimately, recycling can generate a host of financial, environmental, 
and social returns. Some of these benefits accrue locally as well as 
globally. Examples of the general benefits of recycling include 
protecting and expanding U.S. manufacturing jobs and increasing U.S. 
competitiveness; reducing the need for landfilling and incineration; 
preventing pollution caused by the manufacturing of products from 
virgin materials; saving energy; decreasing emissions of greenhouse 
gases that contribute to global climate change; conserving natural 
resources such as timber, water, and minerals; and helping sustain the 
environment for future generations.
    With respect to recycling by the automotive industry overall, 
research on improvements in automotive design and construction has been 
conducted in order to facilitate the recycling of automotive materials/
components. The recycling of automotive steel has proven to be 
economically advantageous, so that wholesale automotive recycling is 
now widespread. Since a large volume of wastage is also generated, 
industry is interested in reusing as much automotive plastic as may be 
environmentally and economically feasible (Ref. 6).
    Increases in the recycling of plastics from ASR aggregate may also 
offer some benefits beyond that of other forms of plastics recycling. 
For instance, because substantial automotive recycling systems are 
already in place for the primary purpose of recovering steel, large 
quantities of ASR aggregate are already being simultaneously collected. 
Such available quantities of ASR aggregate may then be further 
separated and processed as necessary for purposes of reuse. Also, any 
potential expansion of ASR aggregate recycling capabilities could 
potentially generate excess capacity and/or technological advancements 
for use in the recycling of non-automotive products of a similar 
nature, such as large appliances for example.
    Such dynamics demonstrate the potential for creating a broad range 
of direct and indirect benefits that may be directly attributed to 
improved procedures and reduced regulatory barriers associated with the 
recycling of plastics in ASR aggregate. Any stimulation of the market 
for ASR aggregate may thereby help to not only protect and expand U.S. 
manufacturing jobs, but also foster new technologies and products while 
increasing U.S. competitiveness.
    While EPA agrees that recycling plastics from ASR aggregate could 
have net economic benefits and positive environmental impacts, EPA has 
not conducted an independent estimate of the precise magnitude or 
timing of these benefits and impacts. Therefore, EPA is not in a 
position to assess the underlying assumptions, or the savings per ton 
and multipliers, used in the benefit estimates from the Nathan 
Associates, Inc. report commissioned by ISRI. EPA notes that the report 
does not address the extent to which economic activity associated with 
the recycling of plastics from ASR aggregate would displace current 
economic activity associated with disposal of these plastics or the 
manufacturing of virgin materials. Nor does it address the timing of 
potential investments in new equipment. Additionally, the report relies 
on assumptions supported by limited data on plastic volumes, 
recoverability, environmental impacts, and market prices. EPA is 
interested in the public views on factors that may affect the 
direction, magnitude, and timing of benefits, costs, and environmental 
impacts associated with recycling plastics found in ASR aggregate 
rather than disposing of this material.
    As expressed in the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. 
13101 et seq., and the Agency's pollution prevention policies, EPA 
generally prefers recycling to disposal of materials within the waste 
management hierarchy. This general preference is a factor EPA has 
considered here. Plastics recovered from ASR aggregate could be 
incorporated into a wide variety of consumer products such as 
appliances, house wares, office goods, electronics, and carpeting. 
Plastics from ASR aggregate could also be returned in a closed loop to 
the automotive market. Although some of the same categories of plastics 
recovered from ASR aggregate are also used in certain food contact and 
medical applications, these recycled plastics are not expected to make 
large inroads into demand for virgin materials for these applications 
due to the voluntary procedures described in this notice. These 
procedures require plastic recyclers to include contractual provisions 
in sales contracts expressly stating that plastics containing recycled 
material separated from ASR aggregate may contain PCBs, and therefore 
the recycled plastics may be unsuitable for many products that 
currently use virgin plastic, such as products that involve oral 

III. Summary of Approach

    The interpretation under consideration would generally allow for 
the recycling of plastic separated from shredder residue under the 
conditions described in the Voluntary Procedures for Recycling Plastics 
from Shredder Residue (Ref. 1), relying principally on the regulatory 
provisions for excluded PCB products.
    TSCA section 6(e) generally prohibits the manufacture, processing, 
distribution in commerce and use of PCBs. However, EPA has by 
regulation excluded certain materials, including excluded PCB products, 
from these prohibitions. Excluded PCB products are defined as follows:

    Excluded PCB products means PCB materials which appear at 
concentrations less than 50 ppm, including but not limited to:
    (1) Non-Aroclor inadvertently generated PCBs as a byproduct or 
impurity resulting from a chemical manufacturing process.
    (2) Products contaminated with Aroclor or other PCB materials 
from historic PCB uses (investment casting waxes are one example).
    (3) Recycled fluids and/or equipment contaminated during use 
involving the products described in paragraphs (1) and (2) of this 
definition (heat transfer and hydraulic fluids and equipment and 
other electrical equipment components and fluids are examples).
    (4) Used oils, provided that in the cases of paragraphs (1) 
through (4) of this definition:
    (i) The products or source of the products containing < 50 ppm 
concentration PCBs were legally manufactured, processed, distributed 
in commerce, or used before October 1, 1984.
    (ii) The products or source of the products containing < 50 ppm 
concentrations PCBs were legally manufactured, processed, 
distributed in commerce, or used, i.e., pursuant to authority 
granted by EPA regulation, by exemption petition, by settlement 
agreement, or pursuant to other Agency-approved programs;
    (iii) The resulting PCB concentration (i.e. below 50 ppm) is not 
a result of dilution, or leaks and spills of PCBs in concentrations 
over 50 ppm. 40 CFR 761.3.

[[Page 74009]]

    EPA regulations allow the use, processing, and distribution in 
commerce of excluded PCB products. 40 CFR 761.20(a) and (c). Except as 
otherwise specifically provided, the regulations do not restrict the 
forms of use, processing and distribution that are allowed. EPA 
specifically identified, as one likely source of PCBs in excluded PCB 
products, ``contamination during recycling activities involving'' 
historic PCBs. 52 FR 25838, 25844 (July 8, 1987). EPA believes that it 
is reasonable to interpret the regulations as generally allowing the 
recycling of excluded PCB products. Accordingly, under the 
interpretation discussed in this notice, to the extent that the 
feedstock (scrap materials) to a shredder consists of these kinds of 
materials, the plastics separated from the resulting residue could be 
recycled (and the resulting recycled product would also be an excluded 
PCB product that could be processed, used and distributed in commerce, 
including being further recycled), provided the PCB concentration in 
any resulting product is below 50 ppm.
    Typically, the burden of demonstrating that a regulatory exclusion 
applies rests with the party seeking that exclusion. EPA believes that, 
for shredders and their suppliers that follow the Voluntary Procedures 
document, it is appropriate to generally treat the feedstock as 
consisting of excluded PCB products unless there is information 
specifically indicating that the feedstock does not qualify. If 
shredders and suppliers do not follow the voluntary procedures, they 
will need to be able to otherwise demonstrate that the feedstock and 
residue meet the exclusion. Clearly if the feedstock materials or 
residue contain PCBs at concentrations = 50 ppm, the 
materials cannot qualify as excluded PCB products.
    EPA acknowledges uncertainty as to the source of the PCBs in 
shredder residue. However, EPA believes the procedures, as explained in 
the Voluntary Procedures document, can prevent the introduction of PCBs 
at levels = 50 ppm. EPA may periodically evaluate the 
processes and procedures involved in recycling plastics recovered from 
shredder residue. In addition, EPA believes it is likely that the 
number of potential sources of PCBs at levels = 50 ppm has 
declined since the TSCA section 6(e) prohibitions went into effect. If 
PCBs in the feedstock material are < 50 ppm, it is plausible that the 
sources of PCBs in the residue are excluded PCB products. The 
information available to EPA indicates that the PCBs found associated 
with plastics separated from residue are Aroclor PCBs. Aroclors were 
intentionally manufactured PCB mixtures, not inadvertently generated 
PCBs. Since PCBs in general and Aroclors more specifically have not 
been intentionally produced in the U.S. since the prohibitions in TSCA 
section 6(e) became effective, the Aroclor identity of the PCBs found 
associated with plastics separated from shredder residue suggests that 
they were manufactured prior to 1984.
    In promulgating the excluded PCB product rule, EPA described the 
provision as follows:

    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. EPA could not possibly identify and assess the 
potential exposures from all the products which may be contaminated 
with PCBs at less than 50 ppm. * * * EPA has concluded that the 
costs associated with the strict prohibition on PCB activities are 
large and outweigh the risks posed by these activities. 53 FR 24210 
(June 27, 1988).

    EPA has further stated, with respect to the excluded PCB products 
rule: ``These amendments have excluded the majority of low-level PCB 
activities (less than 50 ppm) from regulation'' (Ref. 7). Given the 
difficulty of determining the precise source of PCBs, EPA believes the 
purpose of excluding ``old'' PCBs under the excluded products rule is 
best effectuated in these circumstances by treating < 50 ppm materials 
entering a shredder as excluded PCB products unless there is 
information specifically indicating that the materials do not qualify.
    EPA's regulations provide another potentially relevant exclusion 
from regulation for PCBs that result from an excluded manufacturing 
process. 40 CFR 761.3. EPA believes that this interpretation would also 
support recycling plastics if PCBs produced by an excluded 
manufacturing process are present in shredder feedstock. However, based 
on examination of data provided by ISRI in a ``Summary of Analysis Done 
on Plastics Recovered from Shredder Aggregate'' (Ref. 8), for four 
types of plastic recovered from shredder residue (i.e., ABS, HIPS, PP, 
HDPE (high density polyethylene)), EPA believes it is less likely that 
the PCBs that have been found associated with these plastics separated 
from shredder residue resulted from excluded manufacturing processes, 
because, among other things, EPA has not received notification from 
manufacturers required for these processes under 40 CFR 761.185.
    EPA requests comment on the regulatory interpretation described 
above. EPA will accept comments for 30 days after date of publication 
in the Federal Register. If adopted, the interpretation would not be a 
legislative rule because it would not impose any binding requirements 
on either EPA or the regulated community. EPA is requesting comment on 
the approach because EPA is interested in the views of stakeholders on 
the approach, not because EPA intends to establish binding 

IV. References

    As indicated under ADDRESSES, a docket has been established for 
this notice under docket ID number EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-0902. The following 
is a listing of the documents that are specifically referenced in this 
action. The docket includes these documents and other information 
considered by EPA, including documents that are referenced within the 
documents that are included in the docket, even if the referenced 
document is not physically located in the docket. For assistance in 
locating these other documents, please consult the person listed under 

    1. ISRI. Voluntary Procedures for Recycling Plastics from 
Shredder Residue, October 24, 2012.
    2. ISRI. Letter from Robin K. Weiner to Steve Owens, February 
24, 2011.
    3. ISRI. Letter Re: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OPPT-2009-0757--Advance 
Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs); 
Reassessment of Use Authorizations, August 20, 2010.
    4. American Chemistry Council. Chemistry and Light Vehicles, 
August 2012, available at http://www.plastics-car.com/lightvehiclereport.
    5. Nathan Associates, Inc. Economic Impacts and Environmental 
Benefits of Separating, Sorting, Processing, and Recycling Plastics 
in the Automobile and Appliance Shredder Aggregate, December 21, 
    6. Argonne National Laboratory. Recycling End-of-Life Vehicles 
of the Future, December 1, 2009, available at http://www.ipd.anl.gov/anlpubs/2010/01/65969.pdf.
    7. EPA. PCB Q & A Manual: An EPA TSCA assistance document 
designed to provide the regulated community with Agency 
interpretations to frequently posed questions, 1994, available at 
    8. ISRI. Summary of Analysis Done on Plastics Recovered from 
Shredder Aggregate, Late 2010/Early 2011.

List of Subjects

    Environmental protection, Hazardous substance, PCBs, Plastic, 
Polychlorinated biphenyls, Recycling, Shredder residue.

[[Page 74010]]

    Dated: November 29, 2012.
Louise P. Wise,
Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution 
[FR Doc. 2012-29904 Filed 12-11-12; 8:45 am]