In response to Don Loepp's Jan. 4 Perspective column, ``Policy shortchanges plastics,'' on DaimlerChrysler AG's new recycling policy, it is important to clarify the true meaning of recycling.
We all know the importance of separating our recyclables from our trash. In fact, more than 75 percent of Americans currently participate in their local recycling programs.
However, a product is not truly recycled until it has been remanufactured into a new product.
Therein lies the true impact of DaimlerChrysler's new policy — it encourages manufacturers to use recycled materials as manufacturing feedstock, driving the economic and environmental success of recycling.
Recycling is inherent to the steel industry.
You can not make new steel without steel scrap (or recycled steel). All steel products contain either 25 or virtually 100 percent recycled content, depending on the steel manufacturing process.
This is the driving force behind the industry's overall recycling rate of 65.2 percent. This includes a recovery rate of 97.6 percent for automobiles in 1997.
And because steel has no memory, the steel and iron recovered from those out-of-service vehicles was remelted to make a variety of new products, including steel food cans, appliance casing, and automotive parts. In fact, the average automobile contains 44 percent recycled steel.
The steel industry recognized the value of incorporating recycling into the manufacturing process more than a century ago. This has given us the opportunity to develop a successful infrastructure for both the recovery and reuse of automotive steels. It is our hope that the DaimlerChryler initiative will encourage other industries to follow our lead.
William M. Heenan, Jr.
Steel Recycling Institute