Blow molders and suppliers of high density polyethylene should jump at the opportunity to join the National Association for Plastic Container Recovery. It's not that the HDPE crowd really needs NAPCOR. They just can't go wrong by joining such a capable organization.
HDPE suppliers and processors have done a splendid job of creating a recy-cling infrastructure and incorporating recycled content into their products without help from NAPCOR - or anyone else.
Blow molders including Graham Packaging Co., Continental Plastic Containers Inc. and Owens-Brockway Plastic Products pioneered the use of recycled HDPE in consumer packaging. Entrepreneurial recycling companies, some of them with business ties to HDPE blow molders or pipe extruders, seemed to form overnight to supply the growing market. Later, large virgin resin suppliers joined the parade by opening their own recycling units.
The HDPE industry's achievement is particularly impressive considering it did not have the head start of a bottle deposit infrastructure, like NAPCOR did with PET. Now, as a result of market forces beyond the control of processors, the HDPE recycling industry could use a boost.
Baled HDPE at times has been in short supply in the past year, and some bottle customers have responded by cutting the recycled content level in their products. To ease the supply problem, communities need to collect more HDPE bottles in curbside and dropoff programs.
Processors, recyclers and suppliers need to learn to work together to take HDPE recycling to the next level.
So the question becomes, what's the most effective way to work together? It does not make sense to form a new group. Plastics recycling already suffers from a surfeit of associations, many with conflicting views. Consensus building - not balkanization - is needed.
Working with communities and recyclers to step up curbside recycling programs has been one of NAPCOR's strong suits, and the area where HDPE could use the most help.
Without NAPCOR, the supply-and-demand equation will eventually work its magic, supporting HDPE recycling at a commercially viable level. With NAPCOR, it's likely that the viable level will be significantly higher.
Loepp is managing editor of Plastics News.