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Pa. plastic recycling plant shrouded in secrecy

Plus, billions from federal stimulus won't be enough to fix state's bridges. 


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Spotlight PA Staff
September 7, 2022
Plastic paradox, funding shortfall, overdose deaths, solar policies, tree branch fix, private water, and the world's largest Ouija board. Welcome to Wednesday. 

A Houston startup plans to build a plant to turn waste plastic into new plastic in Point Township, about 60 miles north of Harrisburg.

While that sounds like a promising solution to the growing plastic crisis, Inside Climate News reports that similar plants "do little more than make new fossil fuels, and produce a lot of waste, falling short of the promise of a circular economy."

Exactly how the company, Encina, plans to recycle plastic waste has not been made public. A spokesperson said the process has not been previously used but has been proven, "including at our testing operations in San Antonio." 

One independent expert told the outlet that the lack of details from the company is "somewhat disturbing."

THE CONTEXT: Plastic waste is a major global problem, especially in the United States. The issue has led many states including Pennsylvania to encourage and regulate chemical recycling.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a revamped recycling bill in 2020 that, among other things, "exempted the Encina plant from having to secure a waste management permit," Inside Climate News reports. 

In an April news release, Wolf said Encina will create "new, good-paying jobs, but they’re committed to doing it with an innovative approach that will lessen their impact on the climate and sustain a brighter future for all of us."

But experts told Inside Climate News the company's plans — including obtaining the plastics and funding it needs — don't appear to be possible. 


"It’s like you’re a minor league baseball player, you never know when you’re going to be called up to the major leagues. Sometimes you just get the tap on the shoulder."

—Jonathan Cervas, a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University, on the significant role he played in Pa. and NY redistricting this year
» CBS NEWS: Oz bought mansion with help of man accused of fraud
» ERIE TIMES-NEWS: Catch up on the Fetterman vs. Oz race
» PENNLIVE: Fetterman can make full recovery; it might take 6 months
» PG: First ad of Shapiro's $16.9M buy calls Mastriano ‘too risky'
» USA TODAY: What reshaped the Pa. gov race this summer
A snap of the Susquehanna River's own Statue of Liberty, via @yatsko
Send us your photos and art, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
FUNDING SHORTFALL: The billions provided through the federal stimulus program to repair Pennsylvania's roads and bridges won't be enough to make all necessary fixes. The Post-Gazette reports on a new analysis that finds the $1.63 billion directed to repair Pennsylvania's bridges is about $888 million below what is needed.

OVERDOSE DEATHS: Since 2018, Philadelphia has seen a sharp increase in the number of Black residents dying of overdoses as deaths among white residents has declined slightly. The Inquirer found that "resources such as the overdose-reversing drug naloxone and testing strips that can serve as a warning when fentanyl is detected remain scarce."

AIN'T NO SUNSHINE: A lack of state policies is preventing Pennsylvanians from taking full advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act's solar incentives, PublicSource reports. The federal law encourages community solar projects — for example, panels on an apartment building that renters can benefit from — but the state lacks enabling legislation. 

WATER WOES: The state Department of Environmental Protection has issued a notice of violation to Lawrenceville Borough after it discovered a bullet hole in a water storage tank was plugged with a tree branch. WETM reports that residents in the Tioga County municipality are concerned about the quality of their drinking water. Here's the background.

NO DEAL: Two of Buck County's three commissioners oppose the sale of the county's sewer system to Aqua Pennsylvania, a private corporation, and are hinting they will disband the local water board should a deal move forward, the Courier Times reports. As Spotlight PA previously reported, the legislature is considering a bill that would make such privatization deals easier

RESIDENCE RENO: The Pennsylvania Governor's Residence has a new $2.6 million courtyard with grass, benches, and more lighting. 

PIZZA BYTES: CMU researchers are creating a pizza-making robot, but human chefs don't have anything to worry about in the near future. 

SPOOKY STAY: Today I learned that the world's largest Ouija board is on the roof of a Western Pennsylvania hotel that is also haunted.

ONLINE LESSONS: A Pennsylvania teacher talked to Wired about the ethics and pitfalls of making TikTok videos with students

TRASH APP: The nonprofit Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is asking anglers to report trash in the state's waterways via the app Fishbrain.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

*Note: We're going back to basics for the next week, so no theme or "guess the theme" feature, but they will return.

Yesterday's answer: Clambering 

Congrats to our daily winners: Starr B., John A., Elaine C., Susan N.-Z., Craig W., David S., Mark O., Michelle T., Irene R., Kimberly D., Susan D., Don H., Doris T., Patricia M., Lynne E., Kim C., George S., Tish M., Connie K., Daniel M., James B., David W., Bill S., Dianne K., Wendy A., and Kathy F. 
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