50% by 2030: Are you Prepared?

In November 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), set a nationwide goal to increase the national recycling rate to 50 percent by 2030.

The plan to achieve this goal was developed by Circular Economy | US EPA.

The Draft National Strategy to Prevent Plastic Pollution Out for Public Comment defines and describes the proposed approach to address the emergence of the circular economy in the United States. 

A circular economy is an economy in which it’s legitimate to declare that consumer products are actually recyclable. 

Currently, figures for the country’s recycling rate are only estimates but range from four to five percent.

For the United States to dramatically increase the overall rate of recycling, let alone achieve the aforementioned goal in the projected timeframe, the plastics industry will continue to be the main target of focus for improvement. 

To gain a better understanding of the focus on the plastics industry, it’s important to know how plastics can be recycled. 

3 Categories of Plastic Recycling Methods


Pre-consumer/post-industrial, physical reprocessing, which requires grinding and re-melting,


Post-consumer, physical reprocessing, which requires washing with detergents and drying in addition to grinding and re-melting.


Post-consumer, chemical reprocessing by depolymerization, purification, and re-polymerization.

Out of these three categories, secondary recycling is the most common because plastic materials and articles producers continue to place an emphasis on maximizing the use of post-consumer recycled plastics (PCR) without loss of performance.

Specifically, as producers or manufacturers of polymer resin navigate imminent changes to the 100 percent virgin status quo, many are electing to develop their own recycling processes to meet the demands of the EPA 2030 plan.

Approval Requirement: Surrogate Contaminant Testing

Surrogate Contaminant Testing is a requirement for companies seeking to approve a recycling process with the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

Now, companies must show that their recycling process can effectively remove contaminants from recycled plastic and is robust enough to produce material that can be used safely in applications such as food-contact compliance. 

Testing requires that resin be purposely dosed with impurities in five categories: 

  1. Volatile polar
  2. Volatile non-polar
  3. Non-volatile polar
  4. Non-volatile non-polar
  5. Heavy metal salt

Once the material has been dosed, the recycling process seeking FDA approval is undertaken, and the resulting recyclate is tested for those five intentionally added impurities.

If testing shows the impurities are no longer present in the recycled material, then the results support the conclusion that the recycling process can remove them and is therefore a robust process.

If a recycling process does not effectively remove all purposely dosed surrogate impurities in all five categories, then steps can still be taken to show that the process is robust by subsequently undertaking migration testing or modeling. 

Depending on the polymer and its intended use(s) post-recycling, whether detergents were used in preparation for remelting, and its previous application, testing of surrogate compounds can be highly specific. 

The FDA receives approximately 40 submissions per year (2020-2022) by recyclers aiming to have their processes approved. 

This is a marked increase from previous years, with around 20 submissions per year in 2017-2018, and around 10 submissions per year between 2005-2016. 

Help close the circular economy at your company by running Surrogate Contaminant Testing. Our team at CSS is knowledgeable and experienced in targeted selection and trace-level quantification. 

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact Kelly Schaefer today.