It's time for our annual report card on recycling, reducing and reusing, and it looks like no one will be grounded this year as a result. Overall, the industry has shown improvement - the average grade is a solid B, compared with last year's not-quite-a-C.
APC and President Red Cavaney: B
As the American Plastics Council has taken on new members - BF Goodrich Co., Ashland Chemical Co. and Rohm & Haas Co. - Cavaney has steered this ``political wing'' of the plastics industry through some uncharted policy waters.
Changing its focus from primarily a recycling drum-beater, to take a greater interest in the processing wing of the industry, APC has managed not to lose sight of the recycling landscape.
National Association for Plastic Container Recovery: CFor much of the past year, NAPCOR grappled with the idea of including high density polyethylene bottles in its educational and political efforts to boost recycling. In the end it decided to stand pat with PET containers, despite the fact that PET already is the most recycled plastic in the world.
Procter & Gamble Co. and Clorox Co.: A
Beset with killingly high prices for recycled HDPE to use in their containers, these end users scaled back post-consumer content. But as soon as the market improved and recycled resin prices tumbled, they quietly proved their good soldierism by increasing recycled content again.
Chicago Board of Trade: BIn what the financial world saw as a bold move, CBOT set up a trading system for recycled commodities, including HDPE and PET. It perhaps was too cautious a move. The reception to the system has been mediocre, but it provides a good information source and foundation for greater stabilization and standardization needed in the industry.
U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Laboratory, Carderock Division:
The Navy met its mission in 1995 to prevent shipboard plastics from going over the side, but it's still working out how to recycle plastics effectively.
A mutinous Tennessee recycling contractor who complained that compacted shipboard plastic disks were only 25 percent plastic and ungrindable has been jettisoned from the Navy program: Some Navy shipboard plastic has been integrated successfully into plastic pilings in a Florida pier. Four new technologies are being auditioned to find an effective way to separate the plastics from extraneous compacted flotsam.
Union Carbide Corp.: A The company managed to hang tough in the face of daunting expense and numbingly slow bureaucracy, to nurse its recycled HDPE product through to Food and Drug Administration nonobjection. This was the first food-contact nonobjection the supercautious feds granted to the most versatile recycled resin, even though the limitations that came with the tacit approval are just as daunting as the process. Carbide's HDPE regrind is usable with food only if it is sandwiched between two virgin layers.
Food & Drug Administration: C
The FDA is to be applauded for ``protecting'' the health of the nation by being cautious in approving food-contact applications for regrind materials. However, that sometimes over-cautiousness inhibits development of applications, making companies' commitment to recycled-content products unprofitable.
They ask, "Why go through this rigamarole, when I could just use virgin?''
FDA has been very slow to reform or streamline the approval process, and by issuing only nonobjection letters for materials, FDA lets itself off the hook for any problems that develop later.
Take a ticket, fellas.
The Society of Plastics Engineers' recycling division and
the city of Akron, Ohio: A
SPE chapters staged worthwhile and important conferences on recycling in Akron last year. The result was a good interplay of ideas and information about the technical side of recycling.
Plastic Lumber Trade Association: B
The fledgling group should be applauded for trying to organize what has been a disjointed and inconsistent wing of the recycling industry.
The association also should be recognized for working toward establishing standards for plastic lumber.
Standardization, testing, experimentation and innovation can only improve an up-and-down product.
Cumberland Division of John
Brown Machinery: A
Cumberland earns its mark for honesty and good citizenship in a losing effort.
The company's lawyers dutifully turned in a juror sitting on a personal injury lawsuit who offered to ``fix'' the verdict (for a price).The juror was charged for soliciting a bribe, and Cumber-land ended up losing the suit.
B&M Plastics Inc. of Mount
Vernon, Ind., and Desbro
Polymers Ltd. of Toronto: A
The two firms reportedly became the first in North America to receive ISO 9002 certification from the International Organi-zation for Standardization. Certifi-cation assures their customers of consistency in the firms' quality-control processes.