The Plastic Redesign Project continues to plug along, although plastics recycling no longer is anything close to a front-burner issue to most Americans.
Both of those facts are good news for this industry. First, plastics recycling should not be in the political forefront. Critics properly may question the plastics industry's commitment to recycling, nevertheless recycling is alive and well — defections by major resin companies notwithstanding.
Second, it is heartening to see the persistence of the Madison, Wis.-based Plastic Redesign Project, a coalition of recycling officials that has met regularly with project and bottle manufacturers, establishing a dialogue to ensure that packaging does not harm reclaimers needlessly.
Note that we are not discouraging packaging innovation. Innovation can be a boon to the industry — consumers and recyclers. As an example, note the rise of single-serve plastic milk bottles. Even the pigmented varieties are easier to recycle than the coated-paperboard products that they replace.
But the Plastic Redesign Project can help designers avoid recycling nightmares before they hit the market. The project has taken aim at specific issues, recommending common-sense steps like phasing out aluminum caps on plastic bottles, minimizing printing on unpigmented bottles, and encouraging production of a low-cost, low-volume machine for detecting PVC at materials recovery facilities.
The Plastic Redesign Project is taking another step at a meeting dubbed Rebotec '98, scheduled for Nov. 10 in Chicago — simultaneous with the Pack Expo trade show and the Society of Plastics Engineers' Annual Recycling Conference. Among other things, the group will discuss three new design recommendations, including two that could affect a coming wave of polyester beer bottles.
Plastic packagers and their customers should participate in this discussion and work to adopt these guidelines, which aim to keep recycling economically viable. Doing so is in the best interest of all parties.