RD132 - 2022 Annual Report of the Plastic Waste Prevention Advisory Council

Executive Summary:

What follows is the legislatively required annual report of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Plastic Waste Prevention Advisory Council (PWPAC). Per the authorizing legislation:

The purpose of the Council is to advise the Governor on policy and funding priorities to eliminate plastic waste impacting native species and polluting the Commonwealth's environment and to contribute to achieving plastics packaging circular economy industry standards.

This 2022 report starts with an overview of the approach taken by this Council to understand the nature and extent of the plastic waste and pollution situation in Virginia. Then, it presents key findings, the criteria used for selecting recommendations, and, finally, a set of recommendations for the 2023 legislative session.

Overview of Approach

The Council adopted a ‘systems thinking’ and life cycle perspective when considering the points where plastic material resources become waste and/or pollution. The primary stages of plastic material flows are as follows:

• Production and Consumption: The demand for and subsequent production of plastic products and the complete use of these products, after which the plastic in the product or its packaging becomes ‘waste’.
• Collection and Sorting: The informal sorting and collection of plastic waste at the point of generation and the transporting of collected plastic waste to formal sorting facilities.
• Recycling: The conversion of plastic waste to a usable ingredient for new products.
• Disposal: The ‘end of life’ place for plastic waste that is not reused or recycled, either landfills, incineration, or combustion for fuel.
• Mismanaged Waste: Plastic waste that escapes other parts of the system and becomes ‘pollution’.

The challenges the General Assembly tasked this Council to address emerge from failures in the linkages between these life cycle stages, as articulated in the following key findings.