Clorox Co. is cutting back its use of recycled plastics in packaging, the result of higher prices and declining quality of post-consumer material. Clorox follows Procter & Gamble Co. as the second major U.S. grocery products company to reduce the post-consumer content of its packaging in the past six weeks.
Terrence A. Bedell, environmental packaging manager for Clorox in Pleasanton, Calif., said the extra effort required to consistently use more than the minimum amount of recycled material required by law in some states is just not worth it.
``You just can't get the stuff, especially in the Midwest or on the West Coast,'' said Bedell. He noted, ``We have said consistently that we consider it important to provide a market for recycled materials - where it is environmentally and economically sustainable.''
Clorox will ``in some cases reduce and in some cases not start using'' recycled high density polyethylene in 30 million pounds of packaging it produces itself and in 60 million pounds provided by outside suppliers, Bedell said.
The reduction means about 6 million pounds of HDPE now coming from the waste stream will be replaced with virgin plastic, Bedell said.
The biggest single recycled-content reductions will be in HDPE bottles for the company's Formula 409 all-purpose cleaner, which drops from a nationwide 50 percent recycled content to 25 percent. Clorox's Soft Scrub liquid abrasive cleanser bottles drop to 25 percent from 35 percent recycled content.
Frederick Reicker, director of corporate communications for Clorox, cited prices near and even above that of virgin resin, and the low quality of some recycled HDPE, as the reasons for the move. He said Clorox will reevaluate the decision during the next three to six months, based on the availability, price and quality of post-consumer HDPE.
``We intend to increase the use of post-consumer HDPE when the situation has stabilized and price has become more affordable,'' Reicker said.
``In today's business climate, you can pass along only a few price increases to your customer,'' he said.
Reicker said Clorox's decision was not affected by Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble's December announcement that it would reduce the level of recycled materials in its packaged products by 5 million pounds annually.
Bedell noted that staying in compliance with recycled content laws in California, Oregon and Wisconsin will not be a problem for Clorox.
``The legal minimum is about 8 million pounds'' of recycled material to attain a universal 25 percent minimum recycled HDPE content, he said. ``We're at about twice that.''
Many cities have difficulty providing recyclers with enough material to meet the current demand. In New York, the Sanitation Department collects about 78,000 pounds of HDPE per day.
Anne G. Dillenbeck, market and economic development specialist for the city's Sanitation Department, noted: ``It's not cost-effective to attempt to increase our capture rate.''
Recycled-content laws and the uncertainty of a consistent supply of recycled HDPE are driving up the price for bales of post-consumer bottles sharply, said Tom Tomaszek, general manager and vice president of recycling equipment maker Nelmor Co. Inc. in North Uxbridge, Mass.
``It's a bidding war out there, especially on the East Coast,'' Tomaszek said. He said some recyclers are paying as much as 35 cents per pound for baled HDPE bottles.