[GRRN] Recycling PET into bottles vs vests

John Reindl (reindl@co.dane.wi.us)
Thu, 27 May 1999 14:03:49 -0600

A previous message on this list said that =93closed loop=94
recycling for PET bottles back into bottles was perhaps not as important
as lengthening the loop of recycling in time and suggested that
it was better environmentally to divert PET to vests rather than
into bottles. I heard the same type of argument from a
NAPCOR lobbyist this week in response to the introduction
of Wisconsin=92s recycled content bill for plastic containers.
This argument is not correct.

>From a mass balance point of view, the quantity of virgin and
recycled PET will not impacted at all by the mix of its use in
=93long time loop=94 vests versus =93short time loop=94 bottles. Using
more of the recycled plastic in vests means using an equivalent
greater quantity of virgin in bottles and vice versa. Except for
process losses in recycling the PET, the average time it
takes for the material to go from manufacture to the landfill
is the same regardless of whether the material is recycled
into bottles or vests.

In addition, recycling bottles into vests, rather than into
bottles, does not change the amount of environmental impact
from recycling. Regardless of the end product (assuming that
they both need the same quality of material), the same
number of bottles are processed and hence the same
impacts or benefits are achieved.

I agree that we should lengthen the time between material
extraction and the disposal of products in a landfill (or better,
eliminate landfills), but this comes by making products that
last longer, are reusable, or by increasing the recycling rate,
not by specifying that the recycled material goes into longer
life products.

Bottle to bottle recycling has the advantage of not only
placing the responsibility for recycling back on the
manufacturer, but also provides a higher revenue for
recycling programs. According to a survey of reclaimers and
markets undertaken by the Plastic Redesign Project, the
typical difference in price paid to recyclers by bottle/film
recycled PET end markets and fiber markets is
approximately 6 cents per pound. (Copies of the report of the
Plastic Redesign Project are available electronically at no cost
from Peter Anderson, RecycleWorlds Consulting, at
recycle@msn.fullfeed.com. Specify if you would like it in
Word or Word Perfect)

John Reindl, Recycling Manager
Dane County, WI

The prior message read:

>I'm not sure closing the loop is as important as the
>length of the loop (in time). There's no real closed loop
>since transport, refilling, cleaning, repairing, and
>remanufacturing the same container also have costs.
>It seems to me that effectively slowing down the phase
>between raw material and landfill is ecological, all other
>things (like emissions and transport effects) being equal.
>If PET bottles subsist as a vest for ten years before
>ending up in a landfill, that might even be more effective
>than being re-used as a bottle for x times and then melted
>down again into another bottle w/ those air pollution

> Carol

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