Governments are still working on details of their mass balance standards and figuring out what is workable to them, said Jan Henke, a director at Cologne, Germany-based International Sustainability and Carbon Certification, which developed the ISCC Plus mass balance certification system for plastics, chemicals, chemicals, textiles and other materials.
European governments seem to be interested in a stricter mass balance standard than what the U.S. may adopt, although final decisions have yet to be made, he told the ACC conference.
"I believe that in the U.S. things are, luckily, a little bit more flexible, you are a bit more open still when it comes to mass balance and the free attribution approach, which is more industry friendly at this point in time, but which definitely makes it easier to scale up," Henke said.
"From my perspective, the European Commission will not go for the strictest one but will find something somewhere in between which hopefully everyone can still live with, but which is maybe a bit more strict than what everyone still accepts here in the United States," he said.
The U.S. government is considering mass balance standards.
A February 2022 report from the panel at the National Institute of Standards and Technology recommended that Washington develop national standards around mass balance to speed development of plastics recycling.
Rudolf said mass balance standards will be crucial to scaling up chemical recycling of plastics, because at least at first, it will be hard to economically justify separate pipes, tanks and other infrastructure just for the pyrolysis oil or other feedstocks from scrap plastic.
"We have to have these mass balance systems to allow that scale up of existing infrastructure," Rudolf said. "If we don't have mass balance, there's no way to set up a dedicated infrastructure just for these new systems."
He said building separate infrastructure over time for renewable feedstocks would have an advantage for companies. It would allow much stronger environmental marketing claims.
"Typically, (a strong claim) requires a dedicated infrastructure and large investments, and even if we ultimately do want to get to a segregated supply chain, the only way to get there is scale," he said. "The only way to get to scale is mass balance."