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[GreenYes] WMI invests in plastics recycling
  YOUNGSVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 9, 12:25 p.m. EST) -- Waste Management Inc. is
investing heavily in an all-bottle plastics recycling center, a potentially
significant  move by the nationīs largest waste hauler to help the plastics
industry boost  sagging recycling rates.

Houston-based Waste Management bought plastics recycler P&R Environmental
Industries Inc. in late 2000, and plans to use it as the base of a North
Carolina  facility that will allow WMI to collect and sort plastic bottles
from all resin types.  Traditionally, the hauler has focused only on PET
and high density polyethylene.

While that may not sound earth-shattering, it could have big implications
for  curbside recycling programs and for attempts to increase falling
recycling rates.

But WMI stopped short of a full endorsement of the plastics industryīs
all-bottle  strategy.

Steve Ragiel, vice president of recycling at WMI, said the company needs to
see  if markets can develop for rarely recycled bottle types before the
company is  ready to sign on to the program.

He said WMI probably will need six months to figure out whether the volumes
of  other resin types will allow the system to make economic sense.

If they find it is not economical, Ragiel said the big question becomes:
"How  quickly can we grow that demand" for other post-consumer plastics,
including  PVC, low density PE, polystyrene and polypropylene?

The American Plastics Council in Arlington, Va., contends that switching to
an  all-bottle approach can boost the amount of bottles collected by an
average of 12  percent because the message is simpler for consumers.
All-bottle programs  capture more containers not usually recycled, like
shampoo bottles and peanut  butter jars, APC said.

Only about 10 percent of U.S. communities do all-bottle collection, so a
move by  Waste Management to upgrade its equipment could open the way for
more  communities to switch, said Barb Halpin, associate director of APCīs
Technical  Assistance Program.

"The significance of Waste Management is they control so many of the
communities," she said. "By and large we havenīt seen that level of
commitment  to `all-bottlesī (programs)."

Ragiel said WMI plans to move P&Rīs equipment from its two factories in
Youngsville to the Raleigh, N.C., area, where it has a large
glass-recycling  processing plant.

Luke Schmidt, president of the National Association for PET Container
Resources in Charlotte, N.C., said he is not aware of other waste haulers
that  have facilities designed for all-bottle collection. He termed
all-bottle programs the  "way of the future."

Both Schmidt and Robin Cotchan, director of the Association of Postconsumer
 Plastic Recyclers in Arlington, said they expect WMI to build more of the
all-bottle sorting facilities, though neither has spoken specifically about
that with  the company.

Ragiel said WMI will decide about future plants after reviewing the Raleigh

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