After 23 years in the PET recycling business, I feel at least a little qualified to give an opinion on what needs to be accomplished by the entire PET industry, from resin producers to bottle makers including the engineering resin, fiber and sheet manufacturers.
Being the first Technical Co-Chairman of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers since its inception, and being privileged to work on all of recycling's technical problems, I had the honor of working alongside Dave Cornell (formerly of Eastman Chemical Co.) and Peter Booth (formerly of) Wellman Inc.
In all my years of speaking at various conferences, I've always told people that there were no experts in recycling because all of us were dealing with something new almost every month and it was a learning process every day. But I can honestly say that the two technical experts were Dave Cornell and Pete Booth.
I, along with every member of the APR, was shocked when Eastman had a major cutback and gave David Cornell an early retirement a few months ago. We are equally shocked by the news that Wellman set Peter Booth to an early retirement last week. This man knew more about grinding, washing, extrusion into fiber and all of the chemistry that goes along with these processes than anyone else in the country.
Therefore I suggest a unique Plastic Technical Consultantship of Peter Booth and Dave Cornell working on all the projects that are being thrown at the recycling industry every day, from adhesives on labels to new coatings and now the layered bottles on beer.
So I am asking the entire PET industry — such as the Cokes, Pepsis and Gatorades of the world — along with the bottle companies such as Continental PET Technologies Inc., Plastipak Packaging Inc. and Schmalbach-Lubeca Plastic Containers U.S.A. Inc., along with the engineering resins, sheet and strapping, and the associated industry such as label and adhesive manufacturers, the beer industry and others to figure out a technical grant fund that can utilize the talents of these two experts. In return, each company will reap the benefits of all the data and testing on their products and their ability to be recycled.
St. Jude Polymer Corp. would be willing to perform some of the work on grinding and washing both on a lab scale, mini-wash and a full-production scale. That would allow Peter and Dave to take all the information and make formal presentations at the APR's three yearly meetings, along with presentations at Antec, Retec and other conferences.
We can also pursue Environmental Protection Agency and state technical assistance grants, and somehow we can make this industry partnership successful.
In conclusion, I ask an entire industry to be unique and let us figure out a way to help the two most knowledgeable men in the PET industry work together for the benefit of all of us in the PET business.
Stephen R. Babinchak
St. Jude Polymer Corp.