We all set goals and targets.Sometimes we achieve them, sometimes we don't, and sometimes, when we come up just short, we pat ourselves on the back for trying, and keep plugging. Occasionally, we just have to admit we haven't reached the goal and that possibly it was unrealistic.
The American Plastics Council failed to take that approach re-garding its decision to retreat from the 1991 goal to recycle 25 percent of plastic bottles and rigid containers by 1995 - a goal set by its precursor, the Council for Solid Waste Solutions.
APC has abandoned the target in favor of its heralded ``new'' goal of making the world feel all warm and fuzzy inside about what plastics make possible. No one has gone to jail for failing to meet a recycling goal. Hardly a handful of the dozens of states setting rate-and-date laws have met their goals.
This shift comes at a time when APC received high marks for fighting the good recycling fight, including bankrolling major technology and process developments, and lobbying hard for better collection of more bottles nationwide. This newspaper only last week afforded APC a very respectable ``B'' grade in Plastics News' annual Recycling Report Card.
The 25 percent rate was a major tenet of APC's early existence. The rate was a visible milestone that everyone could see and understand. It was a laudable goal and one, that, especially back in the dawn of the decade, seemed possible to achieve.
No one is willing to admit why the goal is no longer mentioned in APC dogma. Could it be that, just like resolutions to do a few more reps on the Stairmaster, or to quit smoking, the yearly APC survey, due out this spring, shows that the 1995 goal has not been reached?There are those who said from the beginning that it could not be done, and if the rate has not been reached, it would be better for APC to say simply ``we haven't made it, but we're going to keep trying.'' That would be preferable to suddenly dismissing such goals, as it just did publicly, as ``all very artificial.''
Red Cavaney, president and chief executive officer of APC*of Washington, points out correctly that the 25 percent rate was set when there was a frenzied public call for recycling and quick, en-vironmental action. He notes
that that frenzy has subsided, and plastics recycling has become firmly established as a legitimate and sometimes even profitable part of the business.Correct also is his assertion that collection is the key to achieving high recycling rates, and that, while it has improved, collection is still not as good as it needs to be.
These are valid points, but APC probably has been more successful in achieving an unstated goal - opposing further government legislation and mandates - than in hitting the tactile targets of re-cycling rates and dates voluntarily. One suspects that if the APC member firms and their bottle-making customers decided arbitrarily to begin take-back programs for the resin products they make, and to increase production of recycled resins, the 25 percent rate would be within reach easily.
APC still has much work to do to make plastics recycling warm and fuzzy with the world. It re-mains committed to ``mechanical'' recycling and may need to push harder for alternative goals and targets - like waste-to-feedstock and waste-to-energy recycling, source reduction and reuse.
Whatever APC does, it should be honest and confess failure, if it has failed, in reaching its goal.
Tom Ford is a staff reporter for Plastics News whose beats include recycling.