NAPCOR soon may stop looking out exclusively for No. 1 - and start looking out for No. 2. Bottle makers and resin manufacturers are wrestling with an idea for using the promotional and marketing savvy of the National Association for Plastic Container Recovery to promote recycling of high density polyethylene.
Charlotte, N.C.-based NAPCOR now is restricted to PET bottle makers and resin suppliers.
``We've had preliminary discussions with various representatives of resin and bottle producers,'' Luke B. Schmidt, NAPCOR executive director, said in a July 24telephone interview. ``This comes as a result of an inquiry from HDPE folks, that they are interested in developing a freestanding organiza-tion dedicated to recycling.
``NAPCOR has been asked to determine if there is synergy,'' Schmidt said. ``The HDPE industry has never been organized, or as focused, as the PET industry through NAPCOR. There is significant interest on the part of the HDPE interests to do just that.''
The self-described instigator of the idea is Tom Rattray, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Cincinnati-based associate director of environ-mental quality.
``We started this idea when HDPE bottles were as rare as hen's teeth,'' said Rattray, whose company uses HDPE in packaging extensively.
Reaction to the idea was mixed among HDPE suppliers, blow molders and recyclers.
Bruce Perlson, business manager for resource recovery for Quantum Chemical Co. in Cincinnati, said the joining of the two resins under NAPCOR's recycling market umbrella would be ``hard to believe.''
PET's capture rate is much higher, in part due to PET's exclusive use in return-for-deposit bottles. To bring HDPE to a higher recycling rate would requirean education program and ``it would be difficult to spread the costs'' of that program among NAPCOR members, Perlson said.
Quantum is a major supplier of virgin HDPE and a significant HDPE recycler.
Ralph Taylor, director of governmental relations and environmental affairs for PET and HDPE bottle maker Constar International Inc. in Atlanta, noted, ``There's no one out there pushing polyethylene recycling.
``The American Plastics Council has been appointed by the re-cycling community that they should promote polyethylene recycling, but that's not [APC's] purpose. There's room for someone to start promoting HDPE,'' he said.
Supporters of the idea include Charlotte Becker, purchasing agent for uncolored HDPE for recycler Orion Pacific Inc. of Odessa, Texas.
``I think it's a great idea,'' she said. ``I brokered PET for 21/2 years. When I went to NAPCOR for information, I either got it or they sent me to the people who did.''
Becker particularly was pleased with NAPCOR's written material and logistical assistance, which are of help ``if you are green to the recycling business.''
``It's an education process. NAPCOR is great, and it would be great to know if you could do the same thing when you're dealing with HDPE as you can with PET,'' Becker said.
Gerald J. Claes, general manager for recycling for Graham Packaging Co. in York, Pa., has been involved in meetings with NAPCOR and HDPE interests.
``How do you attack this whole thing?'' he asked. ``HDPEis a much more fragmented market, with many molders and resin makers.''
Claes noted ``It's timing. There's a lot more [HDPE] available now than there was a year ago, but six months from now or so it's going to get tight again.''
An association such as NAPCOR might benefit HDPE collection efforts in the typically cyclical plastics recycling industry.
According to figures released in May by the American Plastics Council, 494 million pounds of PET soft drink bottles were recycled domestically last year, about 8 million more pounds than the total number of HDPE bottles. A total of 547 million pounds of PET bottles were recycled, including the soft drink variety.
In the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s resin identification code, PET is classified with a No. 1 symbol, and HDPE No. 2.
Critics of the idea also include E. Gifford Stack, vice president of environmental programs for the National Soft Drink Association, whose bottler members exclusively use PET.
``One would have to reserve final comment until after some-thing final is decided, but I don't think that an organization like NAPCOR, which has done a fantastic job of looking out for No. 1, can suddenly throw in another resin without diluting the effectiveness of their PET efforts,'' Stack said.
``Any change in that highlighting of No. 1 would cause con-cern and confusion among recy-clers of PET. Why? The differ-ence of No. 1 to everything else, in terms of its popularity and its demand, is so unique that I think there would be a credibility problem.
``I think the high density people need to have a separate organization not unlike NAPCOR to consider this resin,'' Stack said.
NAPCOR grew from an alliance of major soft drink manufacturers, supermarket chains and PET resin producers to promote PET recycling as an alternative to state-mandated container deposit legislation.
Rattray, who holds no official position with NAPCOR, said he is serving as an unofficial liaison between HDPE bottle makers and resin manufacturers.
Rattray has hosted at least two meetings involving at least two major bottle blow molders and a resin company on the subject, but neither he nor Schmidt would name the companies involved.
Since its founding, NAPCOR members have ``had a very successful thing on their own - they didn't want to dilute'' their effectiveness by promoting the collection of HDPE, Rattray said.
Schmidt would not comment on whether NAPCOR needs the cash that could come as a result of bringing new, large HDPE resin-producing corporate members into the NAPCOR fold. Nor would he speak to the possibility that additional field staff might be needed because of an expanded NAPCOR role in recovery and recycling.
Paramount in NAPCOR's planning is a desire not to conflict with the all-plastics recycling message of the Washington-based American Plastics Council, Schmidt said.
``I don't think we would be drawing upon the APC re-sources. Their mission is somewhat different. We're talking about the possibility of increasing NAPCOR's focus. If it all comes to pass the focus would be with working with local communities to increase collection,'' Schmidt said.
NAPCOR and APC indeed may be moving in the same direction. When APC released its recycling figures for 1994 in May of this year, the major focus was on bottle recovery and recycling - of both PET and HDPE.
In 1993, results were couched in a much broader perspective and focused on the amount of all plastics packaging that was recovered.