RE: greenyes-d Digest V99 #334

Silverman, Alan (
Mon, 8 Nov 1999 09:05:05 -0500

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Sent: Monday, November 08, 1999 6:01 AM
Subject: greenyes-d Digest V99 #334

greenyes-d Digest Volume 99 : Issue 334

Today's Topics:
[GRRN] Manufacturing a Myth: The Plastics Recycling Ploy [ "Bill
Sheehan" <> ]

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Date: Sun, 7 Nov 1999 23:14:52 -0500
From: "Bill Sheehan" <>
To: "GreenYesL" <>, "CRRA listserve"
Subject: [GRRN] Manufacturing a Myth: The Plastics Recycling Ploy
Message-ID: <019901bf29a0$28b63840$843cfea9@billsdell>
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[Below is the intro to a new article in Terrain Magaizine.
For the full text, see the GRRN website: ]

Manufacturing a Myth:
The Plastics Recycling Ploy

By Dan Rademacher

Terrain Magazine, Winter 1999

<snip introductory drivel>

It turns out I wasn't asking the right question: Of course, the
goal should be to recycle everything we can, but what
happens to the plastic after it is collected? Does it actually
get "recycled," returning to where it came from, staying out
of the garbage dump? Not according to environmentalists,
industry experts, recycling managers, and plastics brokers.
Despite collection efforts, only a handful of manufacturers
actually take back what they make, and less than two
percent of collected plastic gets made into new food
containers, like soda bottles. The rest ends up in products
like fleece jackets, non-food containers, commercial-grade
carpet, plastic lumber, and park benches - or gets thrown

AS: The person who wrote the above is ignorant of the economica and
realities of recycling. Far from an evil, this is a good. Every fleece
jacket or non-food container or, more to the point square yard of carpet,
that is not made from recycled PET must be made from virgin PET.

Unlike glass, recycled plastic degrades over time so it
cannot be indefinitely remanufactured. A bottle can become
a jacket, but a jacket can't become a bottle. This
phenomenon, known in the industry as "cascading" or
"downcycling," has a troubling consequence.

AS: The PET is somewhat broken down in its molecular weight every time it is
reheated and subjected to high shearing as in the molding processes. In
order to make it suitable for soft drink bottles use again, it must be
"solid-state-repolymerized", which costs money. It can be used, and is used
after suitable cleaning, as-is for non-soft drink bottles; some of our
customers require such recyclate. It is also highly suitable for fiber use
for textiles and carpet with no further beneficiation beyond cleaning. So
while the writer's words are correct, they oversimplify the situation.
Economics determines all.