A Kentucky bill awaiting the governor's signature would drag the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers into a label certification review program for PET bottles, even though APR was not consulted initially on its inclusion and is not a certifying or a standards organization.
``It certainly was a surprise,'' said one APR member.
The bill - which passed the House 93-2 and the Senate 36-0 on March 13 - zoomed from a House committee to passage in six days and moved through both chambers in three weeks. It would allow multilayer bottles or containers made with more than one material to be labeled with resin identification codes such as PET or high density polyethylene, if they meet APR approval.
As written, the bill would apply to any bottle a manufacturer seeks to change from No. 7 (other) to a specific resin type. But there are very few layered HDPE bottles.
``The reality is, the law is aimed at and applies to PET,'' said Dave Cornell, technical director of Washington-based APR.
After a recent three-hour board meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., APR said it will not conduct testing, but is willing to review data from the testing labs manufacturers use to make their case for having a PET resin identification code.
Several sources said some APR members individually have discussed the bill with Kentucky legislators, and the measure got a push from the National Association for PET Container Resources in Sonoma, Calif., as well as Coors Brewing Co.
One source speculated that the broader agenda for Coors is to have PET beer bottles labeled with the No. 1 resin identification code for PET because bottlers can collect more money under redemption programs in states like California.
Under the proposed law, in order to get approval from the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection to switch from ``other'' to a specific resin code, a manufacturer must demonstrate and receive a letter from APR confirming that its bottle ``meets or exceeds'' the protocol in the association's critical guidance document. The document is a screening tool developed by APR to help companies understand the effect of layered PET bottles on the recycling stream. APR is developing a similar document for HDPE containers.
``APR is pleased that the Commonwealth [of Kentucky] recognizes the importance of plastic bottles being recyclable and recycled,'' said APR executive director Steve Alexander. ``APR is pleased to offer its guidance documents and protocols as tools for innovators to assess if innovations are likely to cause recyclability issues.''
``It is an interesting opportunity for the plastics industry to support recycling in a new way,'' said Jean Bina, director of commercial operations and procurement manager for Phoenix Technologies International LLC in Bowling Green, Ohio. ``It is a new dimension for us. It sounds like there may be some multilayer bottles,'' such as beer bottles, that don't currently have the No. 1 code and could become part of the recycling stream.
Reclaimers and packagers could benefit from more bottles being recycled, and bottlers' sustainability image could get a boost.
``Packaging makers consider recyclability of containers a key attribute and welcome the guidance APR has provided,'' said Alexander. ``APR members continue to seek more bottles collected and want those bottles to be useful bottles.''
Equally important, said Bina, ``The Legislature or the people who are pushing the bill have perceived that the APR guidelines are a helpful, valuable vehicle to identify plastics that are good or not good for the plastics recycling infrastructure in North America. It adds more focus and awareness to recycling and recyclability, which could entice people to recycle more.''
Overall, Bina said she views the bill as positive. But she cautioned that there are some concerns about liability. A company, for example, potentially could sue APR if the association said its bottle did not meet the requirements to be labeled as a PET container.
``APR is not a certifying agency that says yea or nay,'' said Bina. ``Our document is a set of guidelines from knowledgeable industry experts, published by recyclers based on their experience in processing material. We are not an accreditation agency. We are not an agency that certifies anything.''