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‘We can’t recycle our way out’

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Saturday, October 1, 2022

This piece was originally published by InvestigateWest. When dealing with the life cycle of plastic, hundreds of solutions await, from alternative bioplastics that might be able to degrade themselves through the magic of fungus, to complex chemical recycling that can break plastics down to become other petroleum products or to be rebuilt good as new But as promising as chemical recycling and next-generation plastics may sound, experts also say some of the most realistic solutions to plastic pollution involve eliminating it from packaging as much as possible. Decision-makers are asking: How can manufacturers design their plastic packaging to be recycled more easily after consumers are done with it? Should packaging all be the same color of plastic to avoid dye-based contamination in recycling processes? Could markers on different types of plastic help imaging robots at sorting facilities do their jobs better when diverting containers by type? Which products could avoid using plastic altogether? Currently, the vast majority of plastic recycling is done by mechanical methods. First, post-consumer plastics are divided by number; for example, the PET plastic or polyethylene terephthalate commonly used for beverage bottles needs to be separated from the HDPE plastic (high-density polyethylene) that’s often used for laundry detergent containers. Each group is then often shredded and melted into pellets that can get remelted and formed into new packaging. Or different plastics can be repurposed into boards for outdoor decks or processed into fibers for carpets and clothing.  But because heat can degrade the polymer chains (strings of repeating molecules) in plastic, there are limits to the number of times plastic can be “recycled” in the truest sense of being made into a new product. With those limitations in mind, many people, from those working for the largest oil and chemical manufacturers (think BP and Dow) down to individual entrepreneurs, are experimenting with chemical recycling as a potential way to recycle even more plastic. Less than 10 percent of the stuff actually gets recycled, but chemical recycling offers the promise of rebuilding the molecule chains that are broken down with heat, as well as the possibility of converting plastics into fuels and other compounds. Whether some of the newer chemical recycling proposals will actually succeed is a question. Common constraints include the high costs of building and powering processing facilities, the purchase of expensive chemicals, and the challenge of reliably sourcing materials uncontaminated with food scraps, dyes, or other types of plastic or garbage. Other concerns center on the greenhouse gas emissions of the chemical recycling process and, in the case of turning plastics into fuels, burning the end products, and whether those climate costs are less than those caused by creating virgin plastic. Meanwhile, innovators of all ages are developing plastic alternatives made from things like fish skin, vegetable starches and other biodegradable substances that offer the promise of rapid decomposition when disposed of properly, a sharp contrast with the thousands of years that traditional plastics may linger in the environment.  As people figure out whether chemical recycling or plastic alternatives can prevent plastic pollution — which has already tainted air, water, and land around the globe — local governments around the country are still getting a grasp on the recycling options that already exist. Washington state’s wakeup call came about five years ago when China stopped accepting highly contaminated bales of recycled materials from around the world. Washington lawmakers, responding to the loss of a market that took upwards of 60 percent of the state’s recycled materials, created the Recycling Development Center in 2019. Lawmakers instructed the state Department of Ecology, via the new center, to help create domestic markets for the state’s recyclable materials.  Washington was on course to lead the way in tackling big recycling problems surrounding plastics and other materials, but the Recycling Development Center got off to a slow start as the COVID-19 pandemic caused agencies to shift to remote work and Governor Jay Inslee froze unnecessary hiring. The center’s 14-member advisory board, made up of scientists, manufacturers, environmentalists and more, started meeting virtually in 2020, later offering grants to pilot recycling projects and funding studies that identified recycling options and issues. Presort Lead Jameel Henricksen, right, and Sorter Jerome Thomas remove plastic bags at Waste Management’s SMaRT Center in Spokane, Wash., on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. Young Kwak / Inlander “We had resources from the Legislature that we couldn’t use to hire a consultant, so we set up a little grant program for local governments and universities,” says Kara Steward, director of the Recycling Development Center.  Recently, the center has been able to support business accelerator competitions, such as NextCycle Washington, which aims to identify innovative ideas that can create a circular economy for materials like plastic. People with promising ideas will get help pitching to investors and connecting with groups that have far deeper pockets than a state program, Steward says.  “We’re really excited because this is not the kind of thing the Department of Ecology does,” Steward says. “We’re about keeping human health and the environment clean, and I’m over here going, ‘But wait, I want to give money to businesses!’ Everybody around me is like, ‘You can’t do that.’ ‘Yeah, actually, I think I can.’” New ideas that focus on solutions outside of the recycling system are also welcomed, as packaging innovations may better reduce the waste we create. “We can’t recycle our way out of the plastic problem,” Steward says. “We’ve recycled 8 percent of the plastic manufactured since the beginning of plastic. We’ve got to think outside the box, do new things, and NextCycle Washington is a great way to try and give a boost to those innovations that just need a little bit of help.”  In a 2021 report funded by the Recycling Development Center, research professor Karl Englund and a civil and environmental engineering team at Washington State University outlined existing chemical and thermal recycling options for plastic — such as heat-intensive solutions like pyrolysis and gasification, or catalyst-based solutions like glycolysis — and assessed their viability to operate in the Pacific Northwest. Chemical recycling can create new plastics, syngas (made from hydrogen and carbon monoxide from wood, plastics or other sources), bio oils, and other products. The report found there could be enough post-consumer plastics in either eastern Washington or the Puget Sound region to support a chemical recycler on either side of the state if consumer recycling rates were to increase significantly — from a current rate of about 8 percent to 50 percent. But the report also notes that the costs to open a new facility can be prohibitive, especially as the market prices for end products can vary. “There is a definite need to secure investment dollars to make any recycling process a success,” the report states. “Having investors that are educated and informed about the recycling supply chain is a must for them to be comfortable to invest in what can be a somewhat risky venture. Without sufficient investment management, smaller companies and start-ups will have a difficult time securing investments and mitigating risks.” The research team also compiled a database of hundreds of existing recyclers. Though it was updated in spring 2022, the list could already be updated with 100 new companies trying to work on plastic recycling, Englund says. Maintaining a reliable list is a challenge, as companies often make a big splash when they announce their promising new recycling process, but some fade away if their process doesn’t pencil out or get funding, Englund says.  Massive multinational companies such as Dow or BASF, which make additives that help in the more popular mechanical recycling processes, are more likely to stick around, as their products are readily available and backed with more finances, Englund explains.  Even when new facilities do open, they don’t always work as intended. One company in recent years offered Boise, Idaho, the ability to recycle its plastic films like bags and peel-back container tops into diesel fuel, but much of what was collected ultimately ended up getting burned for energy rather than converted to fuel, Reuters reported last year. The company said the switch was due to high levels of contamination in Boise’s recycling stream, but Reuters noted that multiple other “advanced recycling” projects around the world had also failed or been significantly delayed in recent years, largely due to high costs.  However, Englund says that while many news outlets may focus on the recycling failures, scientists and businesses are making significant progress to advance chemical recycling. “The guys in the plastics world are busting their butt to make this happen,” Englund says. “Do we all need to do more? Yeah. But at least we’re taking steps in the right direction, and I am cautiously optimistic.” New alternatives need to be assessed to ensure they’re a better option than continuing to churn out new plastic. For example, say that a store switches to glass bottles that can be returned for a deposit, washed, refilled and put back on the shelf. Does the weight of transporting those glass containers in vehicles contribute to worse gas mileage and a larger carbon footprint than lightweight, recyclable plastic containers? How much water is needed to clean the containers versus produce new ones?  For advanced recycling, companies have to calculate whether the energy needed to chemically break down and rebuild plastics is higher than the greenhouse gas emissions of creating new plastics. Upstream, packaging design decisions can also help make products more recyclable. Take a plastic container that holds bleach wipes. If the body of the container is white, the top of the container is another color, and the label is printed directly onto the plastic, those dyes can “contaminate” the process when recyclers are trying to achieve one homogenous color, Englund says. “When we develop that plastic at the very beginning, we’ve got to look and say, ‘How can I get this back to this form at the end of its life?’” Englund says.  A better design for that container of wipes might be as simple as using one color for the entire container and printing the label on paper, which is far easier to remove before the chemical recycling process and also could be separately recycled, he says. Englund also wonders whether other design features such as symbols imprinted with infrared ink could help materials recovery facilities more easily sort the different materials.  There may also need to be changes on the consumer side, he says, as a lot of design is based around consumer preferences for package appearance. “How do we as a society learn to accept things not in a million different colors [with] all these cool things added to it?” Englund asks. “You know, hey, it’s just milk.” Some states are helping tip the scale in favor of circular systems by requiring higher percentages of post-consumer recycled materials in packaging in coming years. Some are also passing “extended producer responsibility” rules that require manufacturers to pay for the recycling of their products at the end of their life cycle. Those policies could make some plastic recycling methods pencil out, as manufacturers will be more inclined to buy the recycled products to meet state mandates. Western Washington University freshman Anna Armstrong, 18, on campus Tuesday morning Sept. 20, 2022, in Bellingham, Wash. Armstrong is planning to major in environmental science and minor in environmental justice. Paul Conrad / InvestigateWest Amazingly, you don’t need to work in a multimillion-dollar lab backed by a massive corporation to design a plastic alternative.  For 18-year-old Anna Armstrong, the desire to help solve the world’s plastic problem started particularly young. Early in her freshman and sophomore science classes at Ferris High School in Spokane, Armstrong studied the potential of fungus to enhance composting. As she saw how difficult it was to compost bioplastics that are already available in the grocery store, she wondered if she could invent an alternative. She researched some of the options being explored, such as using the skin of invasive fish species to make bioplastics, which tackles two environmental problems at once. But working with smelly fish skins wasn’t exactly appealing. Her compost work led her to a specific fungus, Aspergillus oryzae, and she wondered if it could be used to break down the types of plant starch-based plastics, such as compostable trash can liners, that are becoming more popular in the plastic-alternatives field. “Aspergillus oryzae is found in Asia a lot of the time in food management because it is used for fermenting rice,” Armstrong says. “I was looking into what it does, and it kind of links to the starch and starts to eat away at it, which helps the fermentation process. So I cross applied that to plastic degradation to see how I could fix a separate problem.” During the last two years of her high school biomedical innovation classes — much of the time working remotely due to the pandemic — she researched sustainable sources for arrowroot powder, vinegar and vegetable glycerin that could create thin sheets of plastic similar to those found wrapped around products on store shelves, and set to work creating her own prototypes.  “I tried probably 30 or 40 recipes before I actually landed on one that I could use,” Armstrong says. “The ratios can be pretty tricky.” She also tried to adjust her methods to make the prototypes more transparent and with as few visible imperfections as possible, because consumers can be picky.  Armstrong took her bioplastic to the Eastern Washington Regional Science and Engineering Fair, where she took first place for her invention and went on to compete virtually in the International Science and Engineering Fair in Atlanta, Georgia, where she placed fourth in the world in the environmental engineering category this year. Judges there helped her talk through how to reduce water usage when creating the bioplastic film and coached her on how to describe her work. This fall, she’s starting college at Western Washington University, where she plans to major in environmental science and minor in environmental justice. Ultimately, she wants to get her PhD in mycology (the study of fungi, such as mushrooms) as she continues developing her product, which she hopes to see on store shelves one day. “I want to prove that it isn’t impossible to make a plastic that actually works and is environmentally friendly,” Armstrong says. “If I can do it at 17, then scientists who have been working forever in the environmental engineering field should be capable of making it with years of experience.” Part of her passion also stems from growing up with fears of how climate change will impact the planet in her lifetime. She says scientists are trying everything they can to get the world to heed their warnings, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is taking action. “I really want to live in a world [where] I don’t have to worry about what the future generations can look like, and not even future generations of humans, I’m talking about all the flora and fauna that lives in the world and depends on the environment around us,” Armstrong says. “Fear isn’t an excuse to be complacent. Because other people haven’t done it doesn’t mean you can’t.”  InvestigateWest ( is an independent news nonprofit dedicated to investigative journalism in the Pacific Northwest. Visit to sign up for weekly updates. This story was made possible with support from the Sustainable Path Foundation. This story was originally published by Grist with the headline ‘We can’t recycle our way out’ on Oct 1, 2022.

From chemical recycling to plant-based alternatives, scientists size up the most promising solutions to plastic pollution.

Read the full story here.
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New battery recycling rules could be a game-changer in the EU’s search for EV minerals

The regulations could ease demand for mining and jump-start battery recycling worldwide.

The clean energy transition will require lots of batteries — primarily to power electric vehicles and to store renewable energy that can be dispatched to the electric grid on demand. European Union policymakers are growing more concerned about where the bloc will get all the metals required to build those batteries. One potential source? Dead lithium-ion batteries from EVs, e-bikes, and consumer electronics, which contain lithium, cobalt, nickel, and other ingredients needed to make new ones. Recycling the metals used in batteries has the potential to limit the need for environmentally damaging mining while also reducing electronic waste. But Europe’s lithium-ion battery recycling industry is in its infancy. While manufacturers sold nearly 700,000 tons of lithium-ion batteries into the European market last year, recyclers only had the capacity to process about 17,000 tons of battery waste, according to Circular Energy Storage, a data analysis firm for the battery industry. New rules that entered force last month could help change that. After years of negotiations, the EU just adopted a comprehensive battery regulation that could spur battery recycling at a scale never seen before outside of China. Battery industry experts say the policy has the potential to supercharge lithium-ion battery recycling across the bloc.  The EU’s new battery rules “will make a very big impact for the whole supply chain not only in Europe but also globally,” Xiao Lin, CEO of the Chinese battery metal recycling consultancy Botree Cycling, told Grist.  Used batteries sit in a battery recycling plant in Montreal, Quebec on January 17, 2023. MATHIEW LEISER / AFP via Getty Images The battery regulation replaces a 2006 policy that focused on minimizing the health risks caused by hazardous battery ingredients like lead and cadmium. The new rules reflect the larger role that batteries, particularly lithium-ion ones, play in society today, and the EU’s desire to ensure they are sustainable throughout their entire life cycle, from manufacturing to disposal. The regulation requires manufacturers to collect waste lithium-ion batteries for recycling and, in the case of EV, e-bike, and energy storage batteries, incorporate recycled materials into new ones. The battery regulation also includes ambitious metals recovery targets, pushing recyclers to use technologies that do a good job reclaiming critical resources like lithium. The regulation comes at a pivotal moment. EV sales are booming in Europe and around the world, causing demand for the metals inside their batteries to skyrocket. Hundreds of new mines may be needed to supply those metals by the mid-2030s. But mining takes a significant toll on the environment, and often, local communities. Most EU nations have limited battery metal resources, forcing them to rely on imports from countries with poor environmental and human rights track records. Waste batteries are pooled for recycling at a facility in Jieshou, China, in July 2021. Liu Junxi / Xinhua via Getty Images Battery recycling is often touted as a more sustainable way to ease long-term supply pressure. Spent EV batteries, as well as the smaller batteries inside e-bikes, power tools, smartphones, and more, are rich in the metals needed to make new ones. Today, China leads the world in lithium-ion battery recycling, thanks in part to policies that have encouraged it in the EV sector, specifically. In 2018, China’s government stipulated that EV makers are responsible for collecting dead batteries, and it set ambitious metals recovery rates that recyclers must meet to be included on a government white list. The EU is now following in China’s footsteps by directing manufacturers to ensure that batteries are collected for recycling at no charge to consumers. For consumer electronic and “light means of transport” batteries — those used in e-scooters, e-bikes, and the like — collection rates will gradually increase over the next decade. In the EV and energy storage sectors, meanwhile, manufacturers are required to take back all batteries for recycling. Bosch, which manufacturers batteries for the European e-bike industry, told Grist in an emailed statement that bicycle makers have “either already successfully introduced or are currently working on collection systems” to meet the new requirements, with e-bike battery take-back programs currently up and running in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Recyclers, meanwhile, are required to hit stringent metal recovery targets, including 80 percent of the lithium contained in a battery, and 95 percent of its cobalt, copper, nickel and lead, by the end of 2031. Alissa Kendall, a battery recycling expert at the University of California, Davis, says that these recovery rates will push recyclers away from pyrometallurgy, an older technique in which batteries are smelted in a furnace to produce a low-quality metal alloy. Instead, Kendall expects the new rules will accelerate the industry-wide shift toward hydrometallurgy. Hydrometallurgical recyclers typically shred batteries to produce a powder called “black mass,” then separate and purify individual metals using chemical solvents. While pyrometallurgical recycling often results in significant lithium losses, recyclers using hydrometallurgy claim they can recover lithium at high rates. There are also environmental benefits: While pyrometallurgy uses considerable energy and produces toxic gases that must be captured or remediated, hydrometallurgy requires less energy and generates lower emissions (although the strong acids involved require careful disposal). A scientist poses with a beaker filled with aluminium foil, copper foil, casing particles, and a “black mass” made of used graphite, cobalt, nickel, and manganese from old lithium-ion batteries. JENS SCHLUETER / AFP via Getty Images “Our industry-leading, sustainable lithium-ion battery recycling technology is geared towards meeting lithium, cobalt, and nickel recovery targets set forth in the Battery Regulation,” a spokesperson for Canada-based battery recycler Li-Cycle told Grist in an email, adding that Europe’s regulations are “very positive for the growth of the industry.” Li-Cycle is one of several hydrometallurgical recycling companies in the process of massively expanding its presence in Europe: Last month, it opened a black mass facility in Germany and announced plans for a future recycling hub in Italy.  Recycling doesn’t have to take place in Europe as long as it meets EU standards. Lin says that many Asian recyclers are already meeting or exceeding the metal recovery rates in the European battery regulation. But Lin expects established recyclers will run into trouble with other EU standards, such as a requirement that 70 percent of the weight of batteries be recycled by the end of 2030. In China, about 65 percent of EV batteries sold today are lithium-iron-phosphate batteries, a chemistry that contains no nickel or cobalt. Aside from lithium, there’s very little in these batteries worth recycling. As a result, Lin says, recyclers are used to recovering about 3 percent of their materials by weight. “It’s very different to reach 70 percent,” Lin said. Recyclers outside of Europe that want to cater to the EU market, Lin says, may have to set up new European facilities with more advanced technologies.  In addition to mandating efficient recycling, the new battery regulation seeks to ensure that recycled materials get incorporated into new batteries. By 2031, the EU will require that new EV and storage batteries contain at least 6 percent recycled lithium and nickel, 16 percent recycled cobalt, and 85 percent recycled lead. These figures will rise to 12 percent recycled lithium, 15 percent recycled nickel, and 26 percent recycled cobalt by 2036 (at which point they will also apply to “light means of transport” batteries). But while the intent of the recycled content standards is to promote the reuse of critical resources, experts warn that they could have unintended consequences. Andy Leach, an energy storage analyst at consultancy BloombergNEF, says that if the recycled content standards are higher than what the recycling market can deliver on its own, companies might be forced to recycle batteries prematurely in order to reach them. Overly ambitious targets could also encourage battery makers to be wasteful, since the standards can be met with either end-of-life batteries or battery production scrap, which consists of cuttings and leftovers from the battery manufacturing process, as well as battery components that didn’t meet quality control standards. If there aren’t enough end-of-life batteries to meet the requirements, battery makers may be encouraged to keep generating large volumes of scrap, rather than implement efficiency improvements that reduce manufacturing waste over time.  “Recycling’s important, but we also shouldn’t rush into it if the materials aren’t there to be recycled,” Leach said.  An employee of European Metal Recycling disassembles a car battery pack into recyclable parts in Hamburg, Germany. Markus Scholz / picture alliance via Getty Images Bosch, the e-bike battery manufacturer, called the recycled content targets “very ambitious,” adding that “the availability of recycled raw materials is the biggest challenge” to meeting them.  In particular, the achievability of the recycled content standards will depend on the return of heavy, mineral-rich EV batteries for recycling. But these batteries are long lived, and they are often repurposed for a second application like grid storage, meaning it could be years before large numbers of them are ready to be recycled. Li-Cycle told Grist that the company expects manufacturing scrap to represent “the bulk of our feedstock” over the next few years, with end-of-life EV batteries becoming more important in the 2030s. BASF, a German battery materials maker that is expanding its battery recycling operations, told Grist that it also “plans to recycle scrap” from battery production until more dead EV batteries are available. While recycled content standards may encourage waste if they’re too aggressive, Kendall of UC Davis emphasized the importance of these standards for improving the economics of recycling. By placing a premium on recycled lithium and other metals, the standards could “increase the value globally for recycled materials,” she said. In a best-case scenario, that might help other emerging battery recycling markets become more economically viable over the long term. Those include the United States, where several companies are now building huge new plants to recycle EV batteries despite no federal mandates. (U.S. recyclers are, however, being supported by big federal loans.) Despite uncertainties, many in the industry are hopeful that the new EU regulation will help battery recycling reach the scale needed to ease future mining pressure. Kurt Vandeputte, senior vice president of battery recycling solutions at the Belgian-based metals company Umicore, called the regulation “a smart way of saying that we have to be careful and we have to create a closed loop of critical materials.” “It’s going to be the blueprint for many other industries,” Vandeputte said. This story was originally published by Grist with the headline New battery recycling rules could be a game-changer in the EU’s search for EV minerals on Sep 19, 2023.

New EPA watchdog report says refineries can’t police themselves

Many of these refineries are located in and around neighborhoods of color.

For decades, communities living in the shadows of the nation’s petroleum refineries were in the dark about the quality of the air that they breathed. Residents in places like Port Arthur, Texas, and Artesia, New Mexico, could sense their exposure to toxic pollution on days when the air was thick with the sweet smell of benzene, a carcinogen. But access to information on the actual levels of chemicals in the air — data that could help vulnerable individuals make critical decisions regarding their health — was largely unavailable. That changed in 2018, when the federal Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, began requiring refinery operators to monitor concentrations of benzene around the fencelines of their facilities — and, crucially, to publish the results of those measurements online. Since then, benzene concentrations near the country’s 118 refineries have trended downward. However, a lack of enforcement and a dearth of monitoring data has still left some communities behind, according to a new report from the Office of the Inspector General, or OIG, the EPA’s internal watchdog.The report authors analyzed data from 18 refineries that exceeded the federal benzene “action level” — the level above which operators are required to take corrective measures — between January 2018 and September 2021. They found that 13 of them continued to violate federal standards in 20 or more weeks after their initial violation. Many of these refineries, the report noted, are located in and around neighborhoods of color. The report raises doubts that merely asking companies to collect and report their own data as well as analyze the causes of their own violations, as the 2018 fenceline monitoring requirement did, will lead them to keep their toxic emissions below permissible levels.Environmental advocates argue that such measures must be accompanied by robust enforcement action from the EPA.“Even if it has helped a little bit, it’s not enough,” said Ana Parras, co-director of the Houston-based Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Group, of the agency’s fenceline monitoring requirements. “The lack of enforcement, it’s always been there.”The report comes as the EPA has made efforts to incorporate similar fenceline monitoring requirements into other air pollution regulations. Most recently, the agency proposed to require monitoring in a rule that covers many of the nation’s most toxic chemical plants, a high percentage of which are concentrated in the industrial corridors of Texas and Louisiana. Like the regulations for petroleum refineries, these rules would require operators to analyze the cause of their violations and submit a “corrective action plan” to the agency if they continue to violate federal standards.When the EPA issued updated regulations for petroleum refineries in 2015, it was the first time that operators of large industrial facilities were required to monitor and report their toxic emissions. The new rules were seen as a novel approach to pollution reduction: Until that point, refinery pollution was controlled through various technologies designed to capture and eliminate emissions; with the exception of occasional facility inspections, regulators effectively took operators at their word that they were operating correctly. When the new regulations went into effect in 2018, refinery personnel had to submit measurements to the EPA every two weeks, and conduct an analysis to identify underlying problems if their average benzene levels exceeded the federal action level of 9 micrograms per cubic meter of air over that period. The advent of these requirements surfaced information that was previously unavailable to the public and regulators alike. As the data slowly came online, it became clear that the emissions around certain refineries were severe, in some cases exceeding federal standards for many months on end.Despite this, state and federal regulators failed to curb a number of these emissions. The OIG report pointed to several potential reasons for this, including operators’ failures to identify the cause of their emissions and limited enforcement action by the EPA. In some cases, enforcement was stymied by the fact that refinery operators did not submit monitoring results at all. In others, they estimated nearby industrial plants’ contributions to airbore benzene levels using computer models, instead of actual air monitors, as required by the law. A failure to reduce benzene levels could cause serious long-term health effects in communities near refineries, according to the report. Benzene is just one of a litany of chemicals released during the process of refining crude oil. Prolonged exposure over years has been linked to leukemia and other cancers of the blood, and breathing high concentrations of benzene in the short term can cause shortness of breath, headaches, and dizziness. Parras told Grist that residents of cities like Port Arthur and nearby Baytown, Texas, are no strangers to these symptoms. According to the OIG report, Texas is home to 9 out of the 25 refineries where benzene levels exceeded the action level at least once.“There’s days that you go down there and the smell is so powerful, people don’t want to get off the bus,” Parras said. “This is life on the fence line.”In its report, the OIG recommended that the EPA improve its approach to addressing unsafe levels of benzene near refineries by providing better guidance to state and local regulators on what constitutes a violation and how to identify gaps in the data that companies submit. The report also advised the agency to develop a strategy to address refineries that continually exceed federal standards. The OIG wrote that the EPA had agreed with its set of recommendations, and that it considered them to be “resolved with corrective actions pending.”This story was originally published by Grist with the headline New EPA watchdog report says refineries can’t police themselves on Sep 18, 2023.

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