RECYCLING STRUCTURE EXPANDS

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Your Page 10, Dec. 9 editorial, ``Recycling structure is worth salvaging,'' appears to be based on incorrect information. While you suggested the plastics recycling infrastructure is ``disappearing,'' the facts, supported by data, demonstrate it continues to grow despite the volatility of the commodity marketplace.

The post-consumer plastics market is subject to the economic cycles familiar to all commodities; however, the steady increase in the amount of plastics being recycled and the processing capacity of facilities handling and reclaiming plastics continues to grow — testimony to the unusual resiliency of plastics.

According to information compiled by R.W. Beck, the number of facilities accepting post-consumer plastics has increased steadily during the past five years, from 1,546 in 1995 to 1,705 in 1996. And despite the fact that there has been consolidation in the industry, including some closings, total reclamation capacity is at an all-time high and continues to increase. Again, according to R.W. Beck, during 1995, PET and high density polyethylene reclaimers reported a total national capacity increase of 100 million pounds; and during the first half of 1996, they estimated a further increase of 40 million pounds.

Plastics recycling consists of more than just reclamation capacity.

The number of communities reporting curbside plastics collection has increased steadily from 2,463 communities in 1990 to 6,198 in 1996. The number of pounds of post-consumer plastic bottles recycled by plastics reclaimers each year has grown as well: from 364 million pounds in 1990 to more than 1.1 billion pounds in 1995.

Plastics recycling is experiencing its growing pains. However, despite the natural fluctuations of the marketplace, the plastics recycling infrastructure continues to increase, contrary to the thrust of your editorial. The plastics industry remains committed to supporting recycling that is economically and environmentally responsible and sustainable, as part of a comprehensive integrated solid waste management approach.

Through its Technical Assistance Program, the American Plastics Council conducts technical research, demonstrates new technology, identifies and promotes the best practices and provides educational tools and technical assistance. We offer a variety of tools to help recycling and solid waste management professionals improve the efficiency of their systems and the quality of their materials. We hope your readers will contact us for more information.

Cavaney is president of the Washington-based American Plastics Council.