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[GreenYes] Plastics and PRACTICAL Recycling
OK folks, let's all take a deep breath and wish someone happy
holidays....I'm going to add my two cents here, but I changed the message
title because I'm not sure what I'm responding to anymore!

In my opinion, one reason tempers are starting to flare is because we are
trying to talk about too many things at once.  Poor Ben asked a very
practical, good-hearted question and opened Pandora's box... 

Several people have talked about PVC in plastic packaging, and I'd like to
start there.  Peter Anderson listed PVC as 145 million pounds, or 2.3% of
the total (of plastic resins used in bottles).  Yes, this is a very small
percentage of MSW, but then again, it's 145,000,000 pounds.  This seems like
a good rallying point.  Everyone is on the same side that PVC is bad for
people, bad for recycling, and bad for the environment.  
Next question:  show me the money!  Somewhere out there is a company or two
making bottles out of PVC for other companies to fill with coffee creamer or
shampoo or something.  There are companies choosing to buy these bottles
rather than bottles made from HDPE, or PET, or glass.  
Let's find out who they are and ask them to change.  (trying to be
PRACTICAL, remember)  I'll quote from Peter again here (snipped extensively,
Peter, please forgive) because I think it makes a lot of sense.  

SHOULD THE RESIN BE USED AT ALL
As to the first, the answer depends upon the resin.  As to PVC, the bottom
line is that this single resin, occupying only 2% of the plastic bottle
stream, and accounting for only about 1% of PVC sales (most of which is in
construction), is the greatest factor keeping PET recycling underwater for
most of its commodity cycle.  
If there is nothing else that any of us do before we die, there would be no
greater legacy to leave to our recycling descendants than to undertake the
necessary effort to convince packagers to stop using this resin.

SHOULD THE RESOURCES BE DEVOTED TO RECYCLE THEM
On the other hand, there is the view that we ought to devote whatever
energies are necessary to recycle that 0.3% of MSW which consists of these
small volume resins, even though it is economically impossible to recycle
anything in such small volume because the handling systems, which are
expensive, can only be spread over such small volumes, raising unit costs to
astronomical levels.
CONCLUSION
Bottom line, don't worry about the small volume resins, except for PVC, and
that is where our efforts desperately need to be directed to make it
possible for PET recycling to thrive, which it can and will, if we only come
together and act in our own economic interests.

Peter made a lot of other good points that I snipped because I want to focus
on one thing at a time.  Melissa wrote that she would support a national
campaign to reform the plastic labeling system.  (I would, too.)  What about
a national campaign to SIMPLIFY the plastic labeling system?  If there
weren't 7 different codes on the bottom of containers, people might not be
so confused, and throw them all in the bin, or throw them all in the trash. 

If we focus on removing 145 million pounds of PVC packaging from grocery
stores, the world will be a better place.  We will have accomplished
something.  And then we can move on to ... other applications of PVC, or PS,
or vinyl chew toys. Or recycled content PET in soda bottles.  Whatever.  But
we need to stay focused. 

Plastic happens.  Like it or not, if there are 6,311,000,000 pounds of
plastics used in bottles (not to include wraps and boxes, I assume) than
sorry, Paul, but eliminating their use is not gonna happen in your lifetime
or mine.  So, in the meantime, as C. William said, what's wrong with making
them last as long as possible while we work out better things to do with
them, and make the fossil fuels last as long as we can?  We can't ignore
them until they go away.  We have to recycle them WHILE we reduce them until
they go away.   Since PVC is the hardest to recycle, let's work on
reducing/eliminating that, but we still need to recycle PET and HDPE rather
than let them pile up in a corner.

OK, I'll stop now before I get off topic myself.
Happy holidays!
-- Terri 
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