Before attending NPE2009, I thought I understood plastics. I left with more questions than answers. After strolling the Expo Hall for two days, I spoke with those who make molds, machines, the actual plastic polymers, the preforms, plastic recyclers and even the company that makes a small plastic lining that is inserted into plastic bottles to keep the carbonation from escaping those sparkling beverages. I used to believe that plastics were organized nicely into #1-7, but the catch is, there are now seven types of #2 plastic. What? My first thought was, 'how will that affect recycling?' What makes these seven plastic #2's different from one another? Can all seven types of #2 plastic be recycled together or will it create serious contamination? On Thursday, I was fortunate to participate in a panel discussion headed by EPA that addressed ways to improve plastics recycling. The audience asked questions regarding the benefits of regulation, standardizing collection in the U.S. and following successful models of European countries. All great thoughts and questions, yet plastics are evolving faster than we can set up programs for recycling. We benefit immeasurably with all the advancements in plastics, yet we are also deceiving ourselves that we can continue this habit of discarding this incredibly valuable material. My hope is that as plastics continue to advance, so will our commitment to plastic recycling.Keil may have been surprised to learn that there are many types of No. 2 plastic (that's high density polyethylene, for readers who don't speak the language of recyclers). But that's not new -- recyclers have been dealing with different resin grades for decades. Still, she seems to have a positive attitude about plastics. And her commitment to plastics recycling is a plus. I'm glad she had a chance to come to NPE and learn more about the industry.
What Earth911.com thought of NPE
Earth911.com was among the news providers that sent representatives to the NPE2009 trade show. What did this recycling-focused Web site think of the plastics show? The site posted an item today titled "Sustainability a Focus of World's Largest Plastic Event." ("North America's largest plastic event" might have been a better title, or "One of the world's largest plastic events." But that's OK. Their point is that NPE is big, which is true.) The report quotes SPI's Lynne Harris saying that NPE's Business of Plastics Conference featured sessions of interest to Earth911.com readers, including sustainability, energy efficiency, biopolymers and recycling. It also quotes Sandra Keil, Earth911's vice president of government and industry affairs, who shared some thoughts about what she saw at the show:
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