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This Industry Profile Fact Sheet is presented by the EPA Region 3 to assist state, local, and municipal agencies, and private groups in the initial planning and evaluation of sites being considered for remediation, redevelopment or reuse. It is intended to provide a general description of site conditions and contaminants which may be encountered at specific industrial facilities. This fact sheet is presented for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a federal policy or directive.


The term plastics is given to any compound that has been made from a resin through a manufacturing process involving the application of heat and/or pressure. The actual production of the resin is generally thought of as part of the chemical industry (refer to the Abandoned Chemical Facility Industry Profile Fact Sheet). The use of these resins as they are treated and shaped to become components of other products as starting materials is considered the plastics industry.


The plastics industry uses resins that are grouped into two main categories, depending on their characteristic behavior to heat. Thermoplastic resins can be heated and cooled repeatedly without a change occurring in their basic properties or composition. Some examples are: acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS), acrylics, nylons and vinyls (PVC). The second category is thermosetting resins. These resins, including epoxies, silicones, and urethanes, cannot be subjected to any hot-cold transitions without irreversible changes occurring in composition and properties.


Most, if not all, of the raw materials in the plastics process are recycled. During the working process, some gases and vapors encountered might be: acrylonitrile, butadiene, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, olefins, styrene, and vinyl chloride.

Spillage of liquid resins could result in contaminated soil, sediment, and/or groundwater. Additionally, contaminated buildings and the associated demolition debris may be encountered at abandoned or inactive sites. Decontamination and wipe testing of this material may be required prior to off-site landfill disposal.


Any suspected spill areas around tanks and/or vats should be sampled. Soil samples should be taken around the facility, as well as in any sumps or spill areas that might be present.

Surface and subsurface soil sampling should be performed from the suspected contaminated areas outward to the suspected clean areas. Once the primary contaminated areas are established, grid or random sampling may be performed to confirm the suspected clean areas. The application of non-intrusive subsurface geophysics should be evaluated to detect underground burial pits, filled lagoons, process lines and chemical storage tanks.

On-site and local wells may be sampled if groundwater is an environmental concern. Installation of monitoring wells or other groundwater sampling techniques should be evaluated if it is necessary to fill data gaps.


Priority Pollutant Organics Analysis (volatiles, semivolatiles, pesticide/PCBs)

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Brownfields & Land Revitalization

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