Mandates and markets: recycling's 'catch 22?'

Serious concern over the state of markets for recycled plastics was strongly voiced at Take it Back!, a seminar on packaging and the environment sponsored in May by Kranson Industries (St.

Louis, MO) and by Raymond Communications (Riverdale, MD). While packagers routinely lobby against Federal and state mandates regarding container recycling, deposits and recycled content, it appears that it's precisely those mandates that drive the collection of materials for recycling. Without increasing supplies of materials for recycling, the prices of processed recycled materials increases, causing buyers to look more favorably at virgin materials. At the same time, new production capacity for virgin materials, especially polyethylene terephthalate (PET), has driven down the cost of virgin resin, reported Patricia Moore, of Moore Recycling (Sonoma, CA) at the conference. "I can't blame industry for wanting to repeal California's recycled content mandate on rigid plastics; it's arbitrary, and nearly impossible for many food and cosmetics companies to comply with," pointed out Michele Raymond, conference co-sponsor and publisher of State Recycling Laws Update. "But if everyone stops using the recycled plastics, bottles will pile up from curbside programs, and industry will be back where it was in 1989 when newsprint [value] was at zero and plastics recycling barely existed. Cities will run back to the legislatures."

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