Contact: Riikka Pohjankoski, [email protected], 713.589.7079
Air Alliance Houston Statement:
Articles Published by Inside Climate News Expose the Myth of Chemical Plastic Recycling in Houston/Harris County
HOUSTON, TX – This week, Inside Climate News published two articles (linked below) on the results of a months-long investigation into the chemical recycling industry in Houston/Harris County.
Some key findings include:
- The Houston Recycling Collaboration (HRC), a partnership between the City of Houston and industry including ExxonMobil, has promised to recycle “all plastics” using chemical recycling technology.
- Electronic tracking conducted as part of the investigation showed that the plastic deposited at municipal waste sites that are part of HRC is not being recycled by ExxonMobil at all. Instead, 100% of the geotagged plastic waste was found in an open-air landfill 20 miles northwest of Downtown Houston.
- The Director of the City of Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department said that the HRC’s “all-plastics recycling initiative was still relatively new” despite widespread city-endorsed promotional efforts including at the municipal waste deposit sites.
- Those involved in the HRC, even at the City, continued to withhold details about the project to justify the City’s involvement, citing the intellectual property rights of industries like ExxonMobil.
- About chemical recycling technology itself, the investigation revealed that ExxonMobil is using an incomplete estimation method to inflate how much of its chemically recycled plastic is actually turned into new plastic, as the HRC promises. ExxonMobil has also promised greenhouse gas reductions from chemical recycling, but this, too, is based on a biased model. The Baytown Complex is the 6th largest industrial emitter in the country.
- Researchers involved in the investigation conclude that the HRC is a “public relations exercise” with no real likelihood to reduce plastic waste in Houston.
“Given what we know about the air pollution impacts of chemical recycling, we here at Air Alliance Houston have been trying, for well over a year, to fully understand the rationale for the City to launch this initiative. We were about to resort to legal action to simply obtain a copy of the HRC MOU, which is a public document about a public program,” says Jennifer Hadayia, Executive Director.
“Today, we learned some very troubling details for the very first time from this investigation, and we call on the Mayor and the Solid Waste Management Department to reexamine their support of this project by commissioning an independent audit of HRC members, including ExxonMobil, to determine the validity of their claims about chemical recycling, if this project will truly meet the city’s sustainability and equity goals, and whether the city should end the MOU.”
Air Alliance Houston has reached out directly to the Mayor’s office as well.
Links to Inside Climate News investigations:
- J. Bruggers, Inside Climate News, Dumped, Not Recycled? Electronic Tracking Raises Questions About Houston’s Drive to Repurpose a Full Range of Plastics, Nov. 1, 2023
- J. Bruggers, Inside Climate News, The Missing Equations at ExxonMobil’s Advanced Recycling Operation, Nov. 1, 2023
About Air Alliance Houston
Air Alliance Houston is a non-profit advocacy organization working to reduce the public health impacts from air pollution and advance environmental justice through applied research, education, and advocacy. For more information and resources, please visit www.airalliancehouston.org.