[GRRN] Response to problems with recycling plastic

From: Marjorie Haizlip (wflswmah@redsuspenders.com)
Date: Mon Jul 31 2000 - 15:47:01 EDT

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    Dear Darlene and GreenYes members:

    I work for a public agency that manages a curbside residential recycling
    program for a largely rural upstate (really upstate - on the shore of
    Lake Ontario) county. All the materials collected by private contrators
    is brought to our Materials Recovery Facility. We are then responsible
    for preparing for market, shipping and returning the revenue to support
    our operations. We have been doing this for 10 years.
        We first collected only #2 plastic at drop-off sites around the
    county before the curbside program began. Then we collected only #2 in
    the curbside program. Three years ago we expanded our recycling
    building and could then expand the program to include all types of
    plastic containers - #1 - #7.
        It has not been easy for any of the materials. We have dealt with
    several start-up and/or struggling companies over the years. Plastics
    recycling is much more in its infancy than any of the other materials.
    There is a disconnect between the raw material producers and the
    recycled-material users that does not exist in metals, papers, or glass.

        The plastics industry has created a huge demand by grocery
    manufacturers and by the public. (I'm glad my shampoo bottle is not
    glass.) They created and established the "chasing arrows" recycling
    symbol to convince both lay people and recyclers that plastics is
    recyclable, but the plastics producers have not helped very much with
    the recycling system. And the plastics industry continues to spend
    money on those commercials that convince us as consumers that plastics
    are wonderful.
        In your particular situation what I would say is that your trash
    hauler is having trouble marketing the materials. (We also work with
    several other small counties & municipalities to market their
    plastics.) The hauler may or may not have been given some kind of lame
    excuse by the markets, or just decided to use the hot-button issue of
    carcinogens. Economy of scale is very important, especially in
    plastics. All plastics are not created equal or recycled equally. The
    more materials you can pull together, the better.
        I wish you luck. If you would like to contact me directly, please
    feel free.

    Marjorie Haizlip
    Public Relations/Education Coordinator
    Western Finger Lakes
    Solid Waste Management Authority
    9 Pearl St., P.O. Box 36
    Lyons, NY 14489

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