As far back as the 1990s, ISRI had worked to promote recycling options for automobile shredder residue, but it faced numerous regulatory obstacles, in part due to concerns about potential PCB contamination in the material.
Around 2010, a task force of ISRI members started to pursue a resolution. The group met with representatives of the U.S. EPA, the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, and the White House to discuss the issue. ISRI made the legal, technical, and business case that recycling plastics from shredder aggregate does not pose a significant risk to human health or the environment. Instead, recycling shredder plastics would help the environment by allowing the recovery of valuable resources while also creating jobs and stimulating investment in the United States. The EPA agreed, issuing an interpretive letter in 2013 clarifying that existing federal PCB regulations allow the separation, recycling, and distribution in commerce of shredder aggregate plastics derived from recycling automobiles and appliances. Although recyclers must follow certain procedures to take advantage of this authorization—in the form of source controls and occasional measurements of the recovered plastics for PCB content—the EPA removed the longstanding regulatory uncertainty on this issue. In the end, the agency’s clarification marked “a victory for recycling, environmental protection, resource conservation, and—yes—ISRI and its members,” said then-ISRI Chair Jerry Simms.