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Plastics recycling is socially responsible

Hear! Hear! to George Dreckmann's call for a consumer boycott of PET in the Page 10 Perspective on Feb. 17. Resource management, recycling and social responsibility get little more than patronizing nods of tolerance from plastic producers.

Like blood in the human body, the earth has a limited quantity of oil, which can be bled out only so long before it begins to adversely affect the planet's health. As it depletes its own lifeblood, the plastics industry smugly claims it is the salvation of humankind.

The money spent for the industry's narcissism could be more wisely used to develop infrastructure for management of its limited resources. By resisting minimum recycled content in its products, the industry demonstrates a disregard for the environment. The plastics industry bills its products as recyclable, yet plastic containers are among the most-expensive materials to recycle. In most communities, disposal is as cheap or cheaper. The industry has ignored its customers' desires to recycle and has undermined the effectiveness of recycling by dumping virgin resin on the market. Teaching source separation and proper preparation of recyclables has taken more than a decade; now we'll be forced to ``re-educate'' the public.

The plastics industry, along with most businesses and industries, has historically ignored its social responsibilities. We teach our children the importance of picking up after themselves and respecting the property of others. Plastics manufacturers, distributors and retailers have conveniently separated themselves from these basic tenets. The industry won't willingly accept its responsibility for cleaning up the huge solid waste problem it generates each year and will have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to the corner until it understands the wrong it is doing to others.

The refusal of consumers to purchase PET will be the loudest message we can send to the plastics industry. Unfortunately, consumers may be as weak-willed and lacking in foresight as the industry itself, and organizing an effective boycott will be a formidable task. Minimum-content requirements and/or container deposit laws will undoubtedly have to be imposed before things will change for the better.

Terry Mesch

Pepin County (Wis.) Recycling/Solid Waste Dept.