Politics clogging up plastic pipe debate
Giving the story "Calif. compromises on CPVC pipe use" top billing in the Nov. 20 edition makes sense, since plastic pipe, tube and conduit represent a large market and much exciting technology.
However, the story presents an oddly unbalanced picture, especially coming from the plastics industry trade press. The story paints the picture that there is some factual basis for the "compromise" cited being real. This is ridiculous! It was politics pure and simple.
Also, including almost nothing detailing the relationship between the California Pipe Trades Council and its various arms and Gov. Gray Davis — as well as some description of the highly successful rear-guard action that has been mounted against all types of plastic pipe, tube and conduit by the various arms of the plumbers and steamfitters unions since the late 1970s through the present — does your readers a disservice.
Make no mistake, this was a political decision, and it is based on an economic battle.
The opponents of plastic pipe constantly raise one objection after another and have done so for over 20 years, during which I have observed their tactics in regulatory forums here in the Golden State. If claims of dangerous fire-safety issues threatening the public lost steam and became discredited, then water hygiene issues were raised in every available regulatory forum.
When those lost all credibility, opponents switched again in the present case to raising phantom worker-safety issues with eventual results that preserved their economic interests.
Note, too, that this was a compromise leading to regulation of plastic supply piping unlike any regulations in the other 49 states, as your story correctly points out.
Finally, it all begins to make sense when one is informed that the same groups that have opposed CPVC use all these years were also the largest reported contributors to the governor's recent campaign.
Joseph B. Zicherman
Recycling revisited: Bills better than bins
In a vain attempt to increase recycling of plastic beverage bottles, trade associations representing PET bottle manufacturers and soft drink producers have taken their bottle bins to Minnesota ("Minn. promoting recycling of single-serve PET bottles, Nov. 27, Page 4).
Similar bottle-bin programs introduced in other cities have done nothing to improve the plastic beverage bottle recycling rate, which has dropped for four consecutive years. The National Soft Drink Association and the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) refuse to go public with the results of their most recent campaigns in Columbia, S.C., and Albuquerque. You can bet they'd be publicizing those results if the programs had been successful.
Promotional programs that glamorize recycling are short-term and short-lived. Recycling is not a short-term enterprise. It takes a long-term commitment and a strong incentive to achieve high recovery rates of plastic bottles or any other recyclable material.
Bottle bills provide that incentive by requiring refundable deposits on beverage bottles and cans. The proof is in the recycling rates. Plastic soda bottle recycling rates are three times as high in the 10 bottle-bill states and the one bottle-bill city than they are in most nonbottle-bill states. Bottle bills do more than recover plastic soda bottles and other beverage containers for recycling. They also keep them out of landfills and off of city streets, playgrounds and parks.
If the big bins and accompanying ad campaign fail to increase PET bottle recovery, Minnesota may want to consider replacing the bottle bins with a bottle bill.
Container Recycling Institute