The Environmental Protection Agency says it will recommend to Congress that the federal government ban all new building materials made with plastic waste, but critics say it’s a small step forward.
The EPA’s Office of Research and Development said Thursday that the plastics are toxic and can cause cancer and birth defects.
“These plastics are dangerous and they can be harmful to your health, and they’re toxic,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said during a news conference.
“And yet, we’re making them.
And yet, they’re used in a lot of buildings.”
The agency said the plastics and their packaging have been found in buildings all over the country, including in places like the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Mexico.
The agency’s latest recommendations, issued in December, called for the ban on new building construction materials that are made from plastic.
But McCarthy’s office says there’s no requirement for the federal agency to follow through.
She said the federal Government Accountability Office is reviewing the issue.
“We’re still working with the agencies and trying to figure out how to respond in a way that’s consistent with the law,” McCarthy said.
She added that the EPA was also looking into whether other states and localities have already adopted similar regulations.
The move would be a major victory for the American Chemistry Council, the group behind the plastics, which spent years working to develop the plastic waste standard.
“The ACS and other manufacturers have been working diligently to develop an environmentally friendly plastic waste waste standard,” the group said in a statement.
“The American Chemistry Union has worked with the EPA to develop a voluntary standard that addresses the use of recycled materials and does not require mandatory labeling.
This is a win-win for both communities and the environment.”
The chemical giant said it has also worked with EPA to find ways to make its materials more biodegradable, but that it would still require that all new construction materials be made with non-fossil materials.