Household cleaner firms are returning to higher recycled-content levels in high density polyethylene bottles after ``reluctantly'' reducing them nine months ago, according to one company spokesman. However, no companies apparently are planning to make 100 percent recycled bottles as they once did.
Clorox Co. and Procter & Gamble Co. attribute the change to an improving supply picture for post-consumer HDPE.
P&G is the latest to announce a return to its previous recycled content levels. In December, the Cincinnati company cut 6 million pounds of recycled HDPE resinsfrom the 50 million pounds it projected it would use in a year.
``We have a different mix of levels and packages, but our total consumption of [post-consumer recycled HDPE] is back up to approximately the same level as it was when we reluctantly reduced it some months back,'' said Tom Rattray, P&G's associate director for environmental quality.
Rattray noted that P&G's post-consumer HDPE use could go higher. The effect is primarily in packages for the company's detergent and cleaning products lines.
Other manufacturers, including Clorox of Pleasanton, Calif., are also emerging from the HDPE dearth and returning to the levels of recycled HDPE in use before the market tightened late in 1994.
Clorox spokeswoman Sandy Sullivan said the company began increasing the amount of recycled PE in bottles for cleaning products about two months ago. In January, the company cut back its use of recycled HDPE resin to 8 million pounds a year, about half of what it had been using.
Significantly, Rattray also noted, ``We're not going back to 100 percent recycled content'' in any HDPE containers.
P&G's Downy fabric softener was marketed in a 100 percent post-consumer container prior to last December's announcement.
The new levels bring P&G's average corporatewide use of post-consumer recycled plastic in the North American market to 35 percent.
``Some are higher, some lower,'' said Rattray, adding, ``it won't be more than 50'' percent.
``The biggest reason we've increased our [post-consumer recycled content] is because we've increased our sales,'' he said.
Clorox presently uses about 16 million to 18 million pounds of post-consumer HDPE a year, which is in itself enough to make 74 million 1-gallon bottles, Sullivan said.
Clorox has experimented in the past with 100 percent post-consumer HDPE bottles, but found them unreliable in tests. Companywide, the firm uses an average of 25 percent post-consumer HDPE in Clorox products, with some products reaching 35 percent.
Clorox makes about 30 percent of its cleaning products bottles in-house.