The special report on blow molding in your Nov. 5 issue presented concerns about potential disruption to PET recycling caused by amber PET and PET bottle barriers. Your article contained at least three points: concern about added costs, the need for confirmation that new bottles are not injurious to the recycling effort, and use of the resin identification code.
The article suggested reclaiming costs might rise due to new bottles, then cited an example of an actual introduction not changing costs. The history of the reclaiming industry shows continual innovation and adaptability to changing circumstances. Changes bring opportunities and those who react positively benefit while those who do not see their position deteriorate. To say reclaiming costs will necessarily rise with the introduction of a new container is to deny the ability of a creative work force to create positives out of uncertainties.
New bottles may or may not create added costs. New bottles will create added opportunities and it is opportunities that grow the industry and expand recycling. Changes to the feed stream, other than those imposed by Draconian edicts, are gradual and reclaimers readily adapt. Arbitrary restrictions on bottles hurt the reclaiming industry.
The article called for standard testing procedures to determine impact of new bottle concepts on reclaiming. That venue exists. The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers has testing criteria and a cooperative testing program so reclaimers and packaging companies can evaluate new packages for meaningful impacts. The testing for recyclability impacts will answer different questions depending on what changes are proposed. The APR Champions for Change program, the voluntary cooperative testing program used by many companies to test new packages, has shown at a high level of spiking that new barrier solutions do not meet the expectations of gloom and doom. All of the barrier solutions that have been fully tested in the APR Champions for Change program have shown at high concentrations tolerable impacts on processes and products. While the outcome to date has been positive for both bottle makers and reclaimers, we do not expect every packaging innovation to be benign to recycling. APR continues to invite packaging firms to work with its members, actual reclaimers, to assess the effects of changes on the recyclability of PET and high density polyethylene bottles.
The article suggested some recyclability test should be used by states in deciding which resin identification code designation is applicable for a given bottle. As the name says, the code informs what majority material is used in the bottle. The recyclability of a container depends on many factors. State laws best help the bottle reclamation by using the code to define the majority resin and not try to interpret the desirability of the container for reclaiming in a world of changing capabilities and interests.
Packaging designers are encouraged to consult the APR Web site, plasticsrecycling.org, for guidelines on packaging design based on actual, validated experience of reclaimers. Interested parties can contact us through the Web site or by calling our executive director, Robin Cotchan, at (703) 253-0605.
David D. Cornell
Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers