The plastic industry is asking Congress for $1 billion to bail out plastic recycling during the coronavirus crisis. “Recycling is an essential service and consumers are demanding products with more recycled content,” an alliance of industry groups that included Dow, the American Chemistry Council, Berry Global Group Inc., and the Plastics Industry Association wrote in an April 16 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House members. “In order to meet the demands of this crisis, we need investment now.”

The companies and industry trade groups seeking the money are calling themselves the Recover Coalition, a reference to the Recover Act, a bill introduced in the House in November that calls for allocating $500 million to recycling infrastructure over five years. In their letter, which was first reported in Plastics News, members of the coalition “implore” the House members to include the Recover bill “in any infrastructure package Congress considers either in response to the COVID-19 pandemic or separately” and to double the original funding request, noting that “We feel the time and need is right to seek a program of $1 billion.”

It’s worth noting that the companies now seeking additional taxpayer dollars to fund recycling already have hundreds of billions at their disposal to pay for the processing of the products they create. The 223 companies that belong to and fund the American Chemistry Council and the Recycling Partnership — both of which signed the letter — include 60 publicly held companies with a combined revenue of $2.7 trillion and net profit of $210 billion.

Sen. Tom Udall, who introduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act in the Senate in February, has criticized the plastics industry for “relying on local taxpayers and beach-combing volunteers” to clean up the mess. Udall is similarly disdainful of the industry’s most recent attempt to get additional funding tied to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“By asking for a billion-dollar handout, Big Plastic is trying to maintain what already is the status quo: that is, taxpayers funding and taking responsibility for the waste of plastic producers,” Udall wrote to The Intercept in response to questions about the industry letter. “When we surface from this pandemic, plastic pollution will still be at crisis levels­ — and matters may be even worse, as industry tries to exploit this pandemic to leverage more marketing for single-use products.”

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