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RE: [GreenYes] recycling plastic number 5's and 6's.
Regarding #3:

According to the Worldwatch Institute global PVC production exceeded 25
million tons in 1999.  By 2002 it is estimated that the figure will rise to
33 million tons.  Accordingly, although 250 million tons of PVC are in use
today it is estimated that over 100 million tons have been landfilled or
incinerated.  The production of one ton of chlorine requires about 3,000
kilowatt hours of electricity and since 40 percent of chlorine is attributed
to PVC production the energy burden for PVC is about 1,800 kilowatt hours
per tons of product.  Because the PVC industry does not promote any kind of
product stewardship initiatives, from the perspective of both resources and
energy consumption, there is no credible proactive effort to enhance the
properties of PVC to characterize it as a sustainable material. 

In the EPA's Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste, it was estimated
that domestically, 970,000 tons of PVC were generated  in 1999 of which only
a "negligible" amount was recovered.  So small is PVC recycling, in fact,
the amount recognized for discards equals the amount of material generated.
Because PVC must be produced with a number of additives, such as lead and
cadmium, to produce unique characteristics it is difficult and expensive to
reclaim resins.  Most recycling that does occur is post industrial which
means that nearly everything that has entered the consumer market will
eventually landfilled or incinerated.  

The manufacturing of PVC burdens the environment with numerous
environmentally undesirable byproducts.  The lifecycle of PVC production
creates four persistent organic pollutants which are identified for phase
out under the United Nations Environment Program POP Treaty. Ethylene
dichloride (EDC) and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) which are released to air
and water during manufacture of PVC are toxic and carcinogenic.   When PVC
is incinerated as part of a Municipal Solid Waste strategy toxic dioxins are
formed as a byproduct of incomplete combustion.  

Despite the best intentions of recyclers, as long as consumers are satisfied
with the cheap and easy and manufacturers are eager to provide the "fix",
things aren't likely to get better.  As an architect I have a fairly good
idea of where the battle lines are drawn and I can engage as necessary.  I'm
sorry for the folks in the recycling industry who have to fight these
packaging wars every day.  But, keep up the good work.

Bruce Maine
Research Director - Sustainable Design Services
LEED Accredited Professional
Nebraska State Recycling Association
HDR Architecture

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