When I first started in environmental consulting back in the 1980s, one fast-growing service was conducting environmental compliance audits of waste management facilities (also known as Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities or TSDFs). The need for TSDF audits was driven by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or “Superfund”) which was fairly recent then and imposed joint and several liability on companies that sent waste to disposal sites that then had to be cleaned up due to poor operations and site contamination. That law is still in place, as are the legal liabilities – with many companies continuing to conduct environmental due diligence on their waste management vendors.
This recent article in The Intercept provides a good example of why basic environmental liability management shouldn’t be ignored in the midst of today’s ESG and climate focus. The piece is lengthy and sets out a long list of alleged operational and site contamination issues at Braven Environmental, a North Carolina company “that says it can recycle nearly 90 percent of plastic waste through a form of chemical recycling called pyrolysis.” The Intercept also included a link to this 2023 state hazardous waste regulatory compliance inspection detailing numerous major hazardous waste management violations.
Those newly responsible for corporate circular economy initiatives may not realize that in the U.S., waste management liability applies to recycling/recovery operations. Even if Braven’s customers don’t face those liabilities directly, they still must deal with
- reputational risk concerns related to Braven’s operations,
- disruptions of finding new plastic management options and
- the likelihood of missing corporate environmental/recycling commitments made in public reports.
With so much emphasis on plastics recycling and circular economy in recent years, there is a lot of strain on the recycling/recovery infrastructure – and even fraud. Companies need to make sure environmental due diligence is conducted on new types of recycling/circular economy facilities or you may find yourself facing old-fashioned environmental liabilities.
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