Re: greenyes-d Digest V99 #313

Blair Pollock (
Tue, 19 Oct 1999 18:28:36 -0400

Having had a little spare time this week and having recently been
hand-sorting through a few thousand plastic bottles in our new recycling
operation here, I have run across a number of PVC containers. I am now on
the warpath with the companies that still use PVC. I have sent a version of
the letter attached below to several companies,but included here only one. I
enclosed with the letter, the incisive words from M. Anderson per his reply
to my query last week on PVC.

I believe this one is different from the PET question in that I believe it's
more clearcut. If you can get on the bandwagon on this one, feel free to
paraphrase the letter and send it on. Not to mention calling their 800 #s
usually printed on the side of the container.

I have also cc'd and spoken to our local coop and the yuppie natural foods
outlet about talking this "No to PVC bottles" campaign up with their
suppliers. They were quite open to it when talking on the phone.

Watch this space later in the year for a non-comprehensive list of consumer
products still in PVC bottles. One thing that's really weird is that pine
cleaners come in #1, #2, #3, #5 and #7 bottles

I really do think we could win that one, love don (quixote)

October 20, 1999

Misty Mountain Spring Water Company
Cashiers, NC 28717

Ref: Your polyvinyl choride #3 water bottles

Dear Misty Mountain Spring Water:

I manage the Orange Community Recycling program in Orange County North
Carolina and I am writing to request that you change the packaging you use
for bottled water to a bottle made from either PETE #1 Polyethylene
Terephthalate or HDPE #2 High Density Polyethylene both of which are
recyclable. The PVC #3 Polyvinyl Chloride bottles you now use are not
recyclable anywhere in this country. Some evidence suggests that the
manufacture and use of chlorinated compounds may contribute to the dioxin
loads in our global system.

There is a very small volume of PVC bottles and they ruin the PET when they
are inadvertently mixed for recycling because the PVC resin has a much lower
melting point than PET. When the flakes of recycled material are heated to
be melted for reuse as fiber any PVC in the mix first chars, then the char
creates black flecks throughout the molten PET flake and the combustion of
the PVC destroys the PET fiber so that it cannot be extruded for recycling.

I notice your competition seems to have no problem packaging water in a
recyclable HDPE bottle. To aid recycling, reduce solid waste volume and
possibly its toxicity, please change the plastic resin you package your
water in. Thank you for your consideration.


>At the Plastic Redesign Project (a coalition of state recycling officials)
>we have done extensive research on the recyclability issue (we have no
>position with regard to the toxicity issues).
>With regard to recyclability, the key distinction to bear in mind is
>ECONOMIC recyclability, because, obviously, anything is TECHNICALLY
>recyclable given the application of sufficient resources.
>In the past, recyclers have been told to accept PVC because equipment
>exists to remove PVC from PET bales.
>This is true -- up to a point -- but it does not tell us how much it is
>costing us to utilize that equipment. The x-ray autosort technology which
>is used to detect the chlorine molecule in a PVC bottle is both very
>expensive and, in the field, much more inefficient than desk-top tests
>That is to say, the quality of the incoming stream at intermediate
>reclaimers is highly degraded because it has been baled (at a compression
>ratio of approximately 30:1) with other contaminants as well as other
>bottles and shipped. Even after 2-3 cents per pound in expense is incurred
>to debale and singulate the stream, clumping of a PET and PVC bottle still
>exists, and labels and contaminants impede readings.
>Thus in the real world, if detectability is turned up on the equipment to
>overcome these limitations in order insure that the PVC is removed,
>unacceptable quantities of false positives -- i.e. good PET -- is rejected
>at the same time. Consequently additional measures such as costly multiple
>passes that reduce throughputs in half or more, additional manual
>sortation, etc., must be added to the equation. In the end, the cost of
>detecting the 1-4% of the PET stream that represents the very few bottles
>molded from PVC is typically more than 6 cents per pound.
>But that is only half of the cost that recyclers bear. For even after we
>spend 6+ cents per pound to pull out the very small quantities of PVC
>remaining, some PVC usually still remains which causes yellowing and specks
>and impedes its ability to be used in higher end sheet and bottle
>applications. That downgrading results in the loss of another 4-6 cents
>per pound.
>Lastly, the significant expense to install the equipment (about $200,000
>when infeeding and other ancillary costs are factored in) creates a barrier
>to entry into the reclamation business, and may be lowering the prices that
>processors would otherwise pay recyclers.
>That is to say, the residual presence of PVC (now less than 1.5% of the
>bottle stream) is costing recyclers in the order of 12 cents per pound --
>or 50% more than the 8 cents per pound we're getting for our PET bales.
>Often the current economics of recycling is defined as working to make
>plastics recycling recover over time the processing costs at the MRF and
>reclaimer, so that, after subtracting the cost they pay MRFs, they can
>competitively sell into the low-paying fiber markets. Definitionally,
>those making the decisions about how far to push design and content issues
>have taken the position that no recovery is justified for the additional
>collection costs to include plastics. This has been said to rest content
>with plastics recycling so long as the bale price doesn't fall below 6
>cents per pound.
>However, as to that part of the supply chain which is ignored, the
>estimates for collecting plastics vary but often run more than $1,000 per
>ton. That is a substantial burden to leave on the municipalities which
>operate directly or through franchises these collection programs.
>That burden is compounded further by the fact that there is virtually no
>performance or marketing reason left to use PVC resin in bottles. The
>price for PET, which similarly provides a clear finish for marketing such
>things as window washer and salad oil, is comparable to PVC in volume.
>Thus, the large brands have never had a cost need to use PVC and now
>merchant molders offer small and store brands competitive standard size PET
>bottles as well. The large 32 ounce bottles with handles that could not be
>molded with PET are now available in PET competitively with other
>comparable configurations.
>That is to say, the cities are absorbing a very significant loss (which can
>be estimated by multiplying the annual quantity of PET from each program by
>12 cents per pound) for no reason except old habits that die slowly.
>Is that a reasonable exercise of producer responsibility? I think we need
>to ask the cities what they think about that.
> Peter
>Peter Anderson
>RecycleWorlds Consulting
>4513 Vernon Blvd. Ste. 15
>Madison, WI 53705-4964
>Phone:(608) 231-1100/Fax: (608) 233-0011
Blair Pollock
Phone: (919) 968-2788
Fax: 932-2900
Town of Chapel Hill
Solid Waste Management Department
306 North Columbia St.
Chapel Hill NC 27516-2113