Terrence Blake wrote recently [“Bioproducts need tough, but fair look,” Sept. 21, Page 7] with a caution about recyclers' objections to polylactic acid being used in bottles until concerns over its impact on recycling systems are resolved.
Mr. Blake did not disagree with respect to the PLA bioplastic in bottles, but wanted to ensure that consideration not be denied to other bio-based plastic bottles.
The Plastic Redesign Project, a coalition of state and local recycling officials, fully supports the view that new packaging should be constructively considered with an open mind to determine whether it can be adapted to recycling systems. Indeed, we have not written off the possibility that a constructive solution might be developed in the future for PLA as well.
Our only caveat is that the demonstration of any bottle bioplastics' impact on recycling be resolved prior to the resins' market launch. Any after-the-fact review risks deteriorating into self-justification for the invested capital. That is why we believed it was important to speak up regarding PLA because more products were being sold and pitched as environmental, when, as of now, the opposite is the case.
Finally, we do not share Mr. Blake's view that biodegradability in landfills is a good thing, per se. The Plastic Redesign Project's concerns only address the impact of bio-based plastic bottles on recycling systems, and not the complex set of wider environmental considerations. But, we would note that at a time of growing awareness of climate change, to the extent that bio-based plastics decompose in a landfill, they will produce methane much earlier during the time we confront an irreversible tipping point. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and a non-trivial portion of it will end up being released to the atmosphere from the landfill.
Plastic Redesign Project