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Bang the drum carefully (sidebar)

Use of regrind in plastic drums could lower prices

In December the United Nations Committee of Experts approved the use of recycled plastic in the manufacture of plastic drums used to transport hazardous materials. The approval will be in the form of a recommendation to member nations. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation plans to publish a proposed rule based on the recommendation sometime in the first half of 1997 according to Bill Gramer an official with the DOT's Research and Special Projects Administration. Currently the DOT allows the use of recycled plastic as the "sandwich" layer between two layers of virgin plastic according to Gramer. Recycled plastic cannot be used in any other "single" plastic packagings. But it can be used in the inner receptacle of a "combination" package. This would mean recycled plastic could be used in a plastic container set inside a fiberboard or plywood box. The UN recommendation will contain a definition of recycled plastic that includes a requirement that the material be subject to a certified quality assurance system that verifies that each batch of recycled plastics material has the proper melt flow rate density and tensile yield strength consistent with that of the design type manufactured from such recycled material. A manufacturer of new drums would have to know what hazardous materials the regrind plastic had come in contact with. John Malloy director of the Plastic Drum Institute says "In the long run this is intended to help the cost of industrial packaging to the extent regrind resin is less expensive than virgin. This will certainly have an impact on the economics of drum manufacturing." But the impact of regrind may not be seismic. Paul Rankin president of the Assn. of Drum Reconditioners says "In any case we are only talking about one or two percentage points of additional material coming into the market." Plastic drum regrind is already used for some products such as plastic pipe and non-DOT regulated drums. Allowing it to be used also for plastic drums for hazardous materials means reconditioners will be sending fewer old drums to landfills which is a plus for the environment and a plus for the reconditioners who earn more for the used drum when it is turned into regrind than when it is chucked into the landfill.

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