The National Association for PET Container Resources is calling on brand owners and bottle makers to refrain from using PET containers with degradable additives.
We want the people making claims about bottles with degradable additives to first substantiate and document their claims that there will be no adverse effect on the recycling stream or on the next product made from that material, said Dennis Sabourin, executive director of NAPCOR, in a recent phone interview.
This is a call for responsibility on the part of additives makers and for restraint by brand owners and decision makers so that we know what we have before we go forward, Sabourin said.
Steve Alexander, director of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, said APR is considering whether to file a complaint with the national advertising division of the Better Business Bureau over the claims being made by some additive makers and bottle makers.
We don't think they can justify and substantiate the claims, Alexander said. Everyone has jumped on this as a panacea, but we haven't seen any test data to justify their claims that these additives will not negatively impact the recycling stream or the next product made from that resin.
He also said APR is working with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and Wal-Mart on the issue. APR also has the same concerns with additives used to make polyethylene films degradable. We consider all of them to be contaminants, Alexander said.
Sabourin said NAPCOR will send its position paper on degradable additives to environmental groups and the Wal-Mart Sustainability Value Network. NAPCOR also has asked the American Beverage Association, the International Bottled Water Association and APR to distribute the position paper to their members.
NAPCOR member companies are PET bottle and resin makers, PET thermoformers and sheet manufacturers, and suppliers to the PET industry.
The concept of making PET bottles degrade is flawed, according to Sabourin.
It does not provide any positive impacts in terms of greenhouse gas emissions or resource conservation, he said. You want to recapture those resources and reuse that energy by recycling the bottle. You don't want it to go to a landfill.
At the heart of the debate are concerns among recyclers that bottles with degradable additives will harm both the recycling stream and products made from the recycled PET resin.
Sonoma, Calif.-based NAPCOR said bottle makers and additive producers have not substantiated or documented:
* Claims of degradability of PET products containing degradable additive.
* The effect of degradable additives on the quality of the recycling stream.
* The impact of degradable additives on products made from recycled PET.
* The true impact on the service life of those products.
Because recycled PET is often used to make durable goods such as carpeting and strapping, reclaimers are concerned about how degradable additives will affect the longevity of those products.
Without the testing and data necessary to understand the potential impacts of degradable additives in PET, it is not an overstatement to say that they could potentially put the whole PET recycling system at risk, Sabourin said.
We urge manufacturers of PET resin and packaging to refrain from [introducing] degradable-additive-containing products until data is made available for review and verification, so we can better understand these products and their potential ramifications, said Tom Busard, chairman of NAPCOR and president of Clean Tech Inc., a recycler in Dundee, Mich.
No bottles with degradable additives are currently on the market. But Planet Green Water Bottle Corp. of Vancouver, British Columbia, has introduced a prototype bottle, and Phoenix-based Enso Bottles LLC expects Aquamantra Enso water bottles to hit store shelves next month.
Both companies claim their additives will not harm the recycling stream, although they have not made test data public.
In 2007, 1.4 billion pounds of PET containers were recycled. But three times as much nearly 4.3 billion pounds were not recycled.
Additives that make PET bottles degrade are designed to deal with those bottles that are not recycled, some of which end up as litter, in landfills or as marine debris.
Mike Schedler, NAPCOR technical director, said bottle manufacturers are not pushing to use degradable additives, but their customers are looking at the materials to address litter-related problems.
But degradables don't make anything green or sustainable. They just address bad human behavior, Schedler said. The larger issues are sustainability, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, resource management and energy savings.
Dave Cornell, APR technical director, agreed. I wish someone would convince me of the benefits [of degradable additives] but I just don't see it, he said. And there could be a real disadvantage if recycled plastics get branded as inferior because of this time bomb.