Philadelphia, which attracted headlines for its decision to cut plastics from municipal recyclables collection in 1992, may reconsider and collect PET plastic only, its chief recycling administrator said March 12. Alfred L. Dezzi, the city's deputy streets commissioner and recycling coordinator, said Phil-adelphia could include PET in its recycling collection program if it uses `'a systems approach, that is, if the entire system of collection benefits - like if we get more money when we sell it'' than what it costs to collect.
Philadelphia collects recyclables in a state-mandated program required to gather only metal, glass and newspapers, Dezzi said.
If other cities are considering either adding PET to their recyclables collection, or narrowing it to PET, the National Association for Plastic Container Recovery is not aware of it, spokeswoman Quinn Davidson in Charlotte, N.C., said.
Tom Rattray, Procter & Gamble's associate director of environmental quality in Cincin-nati, said ``cities are always going in and out of the question'' of what plastics to collect.
But William Colden, New York state's recycling chief, wonders about any city that does not have a PET collection infrastructure in place.
``If they can do glass and can't justify PET collection, there's something wrong with the econ-omies of their collection system,'' he said.
``PET is a recycling winner. I can't understand any system not including PET plastic. We do great on PET, because we're a deposit state. We collect about 75 percent of our PET soda bottles, which are fairly clean because of the deposit system.''
Colden said many cities have trouble expanding or starting recycling programs because they continue to try to subsidize garbage collection with recycling.
``If they'd divorce the two, they'd find recycling comes out ahead'' in terms of returning revenue to a city, Colden said in a telephone interview from his Albany office.
Philadelphia Mayor Edward Rendell oversaw the elimination of general plastics collection from the city's curbside program as a budget-balancing measure four years ago.
At the time, Dezzi said, the city was paying $1,200 a ton to collect recyclables, though only a fraction of city residents participated in the curbside collection program.
With plastics making 6 percent of the weight but more than 45 percent of the volume in the collection program, the cost of collecting plastics was 12 times the other, state-mandated materials, Dezzi said, adding, ``there was no state requirement to do plastics.''
Besides terminating plastics collection, the city went to every-other-week recyclables collection at curbside.
Since that time, Dezzi said city-subsidized plastics collection ``partnerships'' have relied on volunteer collection of plastics recyclables at dropoff stations. City compactor trucks take those plastics to sorting facilities, he said, bringing the city's per-ton cost to about $300.