A group of associations is studying the feasibility of changing the resin identification code into a recycling code that aligns better with municipal collection programs and might help educate consumers.
The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. adoped the current code in 1988 to facilitate the recycling of post-consumer plastics, but the profusion of categories - seven in all - sometimes confuses consumers as to what can be recycled.
``The discussion is still preliminary,'' said Steve Alexander, executive director of the Association of Post Consumer Plastic Recyclers in Washington. His group plans to discuss a potential change with Washington-based SPI and the National Association for PET Container Resources in Sonoma, Calif.
Most communities collect only PET (No. 1) bottles and high density polyethylene (No. 2) bottles. But a growing number of communities now have all-bottle programs, which gather a variety of plastics, and single-stream recycling programs, in which all products are rounded up in a commingled stream. In addition, none of the seven codes cover bio-based resins, such as polylactide, that are emerging in the marketplace.
``The decision to revisit the code acknowledges once and for all the limitations of the current resin identification code,'' said NAPCOR technical director Michael Schedler, who will convene members of the three associations to discuss the issue.
Association members also want to educate the public.
The recycling code ``has never provided a proper educational tool for communities,'' said Schedler, adding that one proposal suggests having a classification for all rigid containers.
Thirty-nine states have adopted legislation regarding use of the SPI resin identification codes on bottles of 16 ounces or more and rigid containers of 8 ounces or more. Any changes might require modifications in state laws and might be an obstacle to change, say some officials.
The plastics division of the American Chemistry Council would participate in the discussions if invited, said Pete Dinger, senior technology director for the Arlington, Va., association.
Dinger said any approach that would make things simpler could help - but he wonders if a change is possible.
``The huge thing is educating the consumer, and communities don't have the budgets to do that,'' Dinger said. ``There is a disconnect between the consumer that has the material and the industry that needs the material.''