Design Plastics for Recyclability

The article ``Putting Plastics to Use a Second Time Around,'' Oct. 18, may have left readers with a much rosier view than is warranted. While the American Plastics Council is spending millions to convince the public that plastics recycling is growing rapidly, its own statistics tell a different story. Plastics recycling has stalled out: Recycling rates for all major types of plastic showed no significant gains between 1992 and 1993. With its overall rate hovering at less than 7 percent, recycling of plastics trails every other major material: glass, steel, aluminum, and paper. And most plastic packaging is riding on the coattails of the industry's only recycling success stories: polyethylene terephthalate (PET) soda bottles (41 percent recovered) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) milk jugs (24 percent recovered); recovery of all other types of plastic is stuck at 1 to 2 percent.

While the article correctly indicates that poor economics and sorting difficulties are key reasons for the stall-out, the industry has resisted implementing some straightforward solutions. One example: Consumer product manufacturers persist in using multiple types of containers for the same product. Efforts to recycle such ``look-alike'' packaging are doomed to failure.

Makers and users of plastic have yet to learn to work together to close the loop and put recovered plastics into the mainstream of production - by designing for recyclability. Instead, plastics recycling has been sidelined - and the numbers show it. Richard A. Denison Washington Environmental Defense Fund

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK