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[greenyes] Christian Science Monitor: Trendy source of trash


Pasted in below is an article that appeared in yesterday's Christian Science
Monitor. It ain't perfect, but we think it is a good wake-up call to
mainstream America that much more plastic is being wasted than in the past;
that the wasting increase stems primarily from more water bottle consumption
and more away-from-home consumption of beverages; and that bottle bills
provide a solution.

That said, please note that the "plastic" figure used in the first paragraph
pertains to PET only; the editor must have taken that out. Also note that
the 50% recycling figure for plastic bottles, attributed to Mr. Krebs of the
American Plastics Council (APC), is incorrect. According to NAPCOR's
recently-released report, the nationwide PET bottle recycling rate was 19.6%
in 2003 (down slightly from 19.9% in 2002), and APC's most recent figure for
HDPE recycling is 24% (2002).

Finally, the "she" in the last line should have been a "he" as it refers to
APC's Mr. Krebs.

--Pat Franklin

The url to the story is at

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ocrober 27, 2004

Trendy source of waste

By Alexandra MacRae | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

There's a plastic explosion going on in the United States. In 1990,
Americans bought 1.1 billion pounds of plastic in the form of bottles,
according to the Container Recycling Institute. In 2002, they bought more
than three times that - 4 billion pounds.

America's population has increased only slightly since 1990. And the amount
of plastic used in the average beverage container has actually decreased.
Why are today's consumers using so much more plastic?

"That increase is not coming from shampoo bottles," says Jenny Gitlitz, a
spokeswoman for the Container Recycling Institute.
"It's coming primarily from water bottles."

The sale of custom containers - an industry category including shampoo,
ketchup, mayonnaise, and noncarbonated beverage containers - increased more
than fivefold between 1990 and 2002.

"There is a new class of beverages that were introduced that didn't exist 10
years ago - all these single-serving water bottles, and sports drinks, and
energy drinks," Ms. Gitlitz says. "But it's not just that they exist. It's
also that people are buying them and drinking them away from home."

As a result, Gitlitz explains, more beverages are now sold in single-serving

The single-serving bottles are convenient, and the choice of higher-quality
drinking water as a snack beverage appeals to consumers as a healthful

But most probably don't think about the problems created by that growing
source of plastic waste.
Plastic certainly has some "green" appeal as a packaging material.

It has supplanted other bottling materials because it is efficient
economically and ecologically, says Robert Krebs, communications director
for the American Plastics Council.

"It's a very, very efficient packaging material and very responsible in
terms of a choice for the environment," Mr. Krebs says.

Where glass and aluminum must be heated to very high temperatures to be
shaped, plastics become molten at much lower temperatures. So making plastic
bottles uses less fuel.

The nature of the plastic also allows for "source reduction" - using less
material for the same product, in this case the same number of bottles.

Glass bottles can be only so thin. But plastic bottles use about 27 percent
less plastic than they did 10 years ago, Mr. Krebs says. Manufacturers have
achieved source reduction by making bottle walls thinner, preserving their
strength with corrugation, a technique not possible with less malleable

But plastic does have costs. All bottles end up incinerated, in landfills,
or recycled. And plastics recycling is not as
prevalent as environmental and industry advocates would like.

Aluminum, glass, or plastic containers are recycled only if consumers toss
them in the right bin. The American Plastics Council estimates that only 50
percent of plastic bottles now go into a recycling bin.

Even after bottles are collected, features of the market for plastic
recyclables dictate that many are never reincarnated.
Ideally, bottles are claimed at recycling centers by entrepreneurs who plan
to use them. These second users pay little or nothing for bottles besides
the cost of hauling them away.

But at current collection rates, they may have to visit many sites to amass
enough bottles for their purposes. The cost of new plastic is often lower.

The supply of new plastic is also more reliable. "You can't call up and
order more [recycled plastic]," Krebs explains. "If I make binders or
parking bumpers from recycled plastic ... I'm at the mercy of people putting
things in their recycling bins."

Whether collected bottles are recycled depends on how many are amassed.
One means of increasing bottle collection rates are so-called "bottle-bill"
programs - administered by industry - which give consumers 5 or 10 cents for
every empty bottle they return to a supermarket. But only 10 states have
passed bottle bills since the early 1970s.

Most environmental groups want to bring bottle bills to more states and to
expand existing programs, many of which collect only carbonated-beverage

But such programs are not popular with the beverage industry because "there
is an immense infrastructure that must be set up," Krebs says.

Ultimately, she says, the programs are a cost passed on to the consumer.

Patricia Franklin
Executive Director
Container Recycling Institute
1911 N. Fort Myer Drive, Ste. 702
Arlington, VA 22209

TEL: 703.276.9800
FAX: 703.276.9587
EMAIL: pfranklin@no.address
Patricia Franklin
Executive Director
Container Recycling Institute
1911 N. Fort Myer Drive, Ste. 702
Arlington, VA 22209

TEL: 703.276.9800
FAX: 703.276.9587
EMAIL: pfranklin@no.address

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