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[greenyes] RE: Searching for Examples of Industry Funded Recycling Projects


One of the strongest efforts I can remember is the past effort
that the American Plastics Council (APC) put in to help support
plastics recycling. Back in 1991 Oregon passed a law requiring
that rigid plastic containers sold in our state either be made
from plastic that is being recycled at a rate of greater
than 25%, be made with at least 25% recycled content, or be
made to be reusable. Oregon already had a fairly high
plastics recycling rate due to our Bottle Bill, and so the
APC figured that if they could get plastic bottles into most
of our curbside recycling programs too, it could push the
overall rate for plastic container recycling above the 25%
threshold set by law. APC sponsored a fair amount of research
into plastics recycling back then, and they also invested a
large amount of money in setting up a "Plastics Recycling
Facility" or "PRF" at Garten Services - a non-profit sheltered
workshop that is known for providing strong recycling programs.
The plant was designed to use optical sensors and air jets
to automatically sort plastic bottles by resin and color.
For an initial period of a few years, APC also provided a
price guarantee for the recycled plastic delivered to Garten.
This combined support was enough to convince most of the local
governments and garbage haulers in Oregon to add mixed plastic
bottles to their curbside programs, and these programs still
exist today. the new programs were also enough to push the
Oregon recycling rate for rigid plastic containers up to
26 - 30% since 1995. APC maintained ownership control over
the PRF until 1999, when it turned it over to Garten.

The funny thing about this is that although the PRF did operate
as planned, it turned out to not be practical. It was too
expensive to operate and maintain the machinery. In addition,
Asian markets began purchasing mixed plastic bottles at a price
that Garten couldn't match, and so most Oregon programs
began exporting their plastics instead of sending them to Garten
for sorting. Garten ended up turning off the machinery and
selling it, and either hand-sorting or exporting mixed bottles themselves.

You can find out more about the PRF by contacting John Matthews
at Garten Services. I don't want to post his email address on
the listserve without getting his OK, but if you email me,
I could forward it along to him.

I don't think that APC currently provides support for plastics
recycling that is anywhere near what they did a decade ago, but
I do feel that their program was instrumental in getting
curbside plastics recycling going in Oregon back then.

Peter Spendelow
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

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