During a Nov. 12 keynote address at Pack Expo 2008 in Chicago, Glenn Wright showed a slide featuring a rusty incinerator with a towering gray exhaust stack. Next, a photo of a beige corporate office building with shiny new windows flashed onto the screen
``The reality is that modern facilities look like this,'' said Wright, who is commercial vice president of Dow Chemical Co.'s North American Basic Plastics unit.
Wright's speech focused on the need for packaging companies to counter consumers' negative view of packaging by emphasize the role their products can play in recovering energy as well as raw materials through end-of-life recycling.
He said plastics processors could motivate consumers to recycle through adopting a slogan: ``Stop Burying Oil Use it Twice.'' Wright also called for expanded municipal recycling programs and the elimination of the numbering system for plastics in favor of more sophisticated waste stream separation systems.
Unlike other processed materials such as newsprint, plastics retain most of their initial energy content, Wright said. For example, linear low density polyethylene has 80 percent of the energy content of the oil used to make it. Polyethylene and polypropelene have twice the energy of coal 20,000 Btu per pound versus 11,000 Btu per pound.
``How many times have I asked myself, `Why do we mine coal for energy, but bury plastic?''' Wright said.
He said some materials, like PET, should be separated and returned ``to their original forms.''
``If we do not do our job and inform consumers then we will find regulators or special interest groups will dictate the kinds of packaging we can use. They will be dictating us toward a less sustainable value chain,'' he said.
Wright said the packaging industry should set a goal of 100 percent recycling of its products for reuse or energy. He pointed out that recycling rates in the U.S. and Canada hover around 30 percent, while in Germany it is better than 60 percent and in Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands the figure tops out near 80 percent.