GreenYes Digest V98 #146

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GreenYes Digest Thu, 30 Jul 98 Volume 98 : Issue 146

Today's Topics:
PET Recycling

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Date: Wed, 29 Jul 1998 16:27:24 -0500
From: "RecycleWorlds" <>
Subject: PET Recycling

The July 27, 1998 issue of Plastics News has an article, "NAPCOR
councils to push PEN markets, study PET." It holds significant import
to the economic feasibility of recycling plastic bottles.

According to the article:

1. NAPCOR "is forming two self funding councils to push markets
for polyethylene naphthalate [PEN] packaging and to look at the impact
of new technologies on PET."

2. The FDA "has held up commmercialization of PEN because of
recycling concerns and still is reviewing it."

3. An autosort system has been commercialized to reduce PEN "to
less than 2 percent of the PET stream -- less than levels that have
been of concern."

4. NAPCOR expects to see the following types of bottles that may
be of concern to recyclers: multilayer bottles that combine PET with
other resins; PET bottles with a vriety of translucent and opaque

5. NAPCOR is pursuing efforts to insure that all of these
varieties of PET and PET related bottles "has a viable [recycling]
market." [Note: NAPCOR's related RFP seems to suggest that it
considers 5 cents a pound the floor price to aim for.]

6. The new NAPCOR council will "provide an industry voice on
packaging issues and on communications with the FDA."

Certainly, NAPCOR's commitment to the continued recyclability of
PET in all of its proposed formulations is commendable. Furthermore,
they are entitled to pursue the legitimate economic interests of the
virgin industry which it represents and which is advantaged by
packaging innovations that increase their market share.

However, in addition to technical recyclability, recycling program
managers are deeply concerned about the economic recyclability of
materials included in their programs. If nothing else, the articles
in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have focused attention
on the bottom line.

The possibility of a 5 cent per pound price for baled
PET -- after lowering the price paid recyclers so that processors can
recover for their additional costs of handling and processing the new
formulations of PET -- raises a matter of the utmost importance
to the recycling community.

Current baled PET prices FOB seller's door are reported to be 13.5
15.5 cents/lb. Plastics in the Environment (Jul 22 '98). Built into
the current number is an offset for the cost borne by reclaimers to
remove PVC to the 20-50 ppm contamination levels required by end
markets We estimate that the incremental cost of removing PVC from PET
bales of beverage and
custom PET bottles is approximately 6.5 cents per pound of PET
processed -- and $2.78 per pound of PVC sorted, based upon a study was
done by
R. W. Beck for the Environmental Protection Agency, Cost Evaluation of
Automated and Manual Post-Consumer Plastic Bottle Sorting Systems
(Sept. 1994), after adjusting that study's numbers for several
unrealistic assumptions (primarily reducing amortization from 10 years
to 5 years for technological obsolesence, increasing return
requirements from 8% to 20% for minimal private sector capital
requirements and subtracting for the lost value of rejected PET due to
false positive readings). That is to say, the current price would be
more than 20 cents per pound were there no PVC bottles to remove.

The low weight per bottle (6-8 plastic bottles per pound compared
to 1-2 glass bottles) that is the trademark of plastic is a positive
factor in its selection for those involved in the front end of the
product life. For those on the back end, however, its weight
characteristic means that a collection vehicle can be filled with a
lot of plastic bottles bearing very little weight, and weight is what,
along with its unit value, determines the revenues that can be
generated to offset that collection cost. That is to say, plastic
bottles are disproportionately expensive to include in recycle
collection programs.

The question is what position recyclers should advance as these
design issues unfurl.

One point of view is that recyclers must accept whatever packagers
develop and make the most of it. This is, impliedly, the philosophy
reflected in NAPCOR's position. Another point of view is that the
economic needs of recyclers, along with any technical limitations,
should be considered and balanced in the initial decision of whether
to deploy a given innovation without modifications necessary for
recycler's viability.

If the recycling community believes that, in view of the
importance of recycling's economic viability to public goals and the
disproportionate cost to collect plastic, the economics of recycling
PET ought to be considered as well as the technical feasibility, it
will need to give voice to that position as the earliest possible
Peter Anderson
RecycleWorlds Consulting
4513 Vernon Blvd. Ste. 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
Phone:(608) 231-1100/Fax: (608) 233-0011


End of GreenYes Digest V98 #146