Axel Barrett Recycling

Another Skeleton in the Recycling Closet

We strongly advise not to read this article if you're a bit naive and innocent and want to stay that way.

What if the “Alliance to End Plastic Waste” was a remake from an initiative that existed in the 1980s called “The Council for Solid Waste Solutions”?

We found the following transcript from the US Government Printing Office … dating from 1991 … hearing before the subcommittee on commerce, consumer protection, and competitiveness of the committee on energy and commerce house of representatives one hundred first congress second session on h . r . 4942 a bill to promote the recycling of valuable materials contained in municipal refuse, and for other purposes.

The Council for Solid Waste Solutions, was a Washington D.C.-based organization that was sponsored by plastics manufacturers. It claimed to promote recycling of plastics products.

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Some people claims that in reality, its mission was to promote public acceptance of plastic products, many of which could not be economically recycled. The group is now defunct.

The Council for Solid Waste Solutions was the plastics industry’s environmental task force which later evolved into the American Plastics Council and who merged with the American Chemistry Council in 2002.

Anyway … we told you … the truth … the whole truth and nothing but the truth

council solid waste solutions

The Council for Solid Waste Solutions appreciates this opportunity to present its views on H . R . 4942 , the National Recyclable Commodities Act of 1990.

This testimony includes a brief introduction about the Council , an analysis of some of the major portions of the bill , and several suggestions for changes which we believe would im prove the bill .

The Council for Solid Waste Solutions is a program of the Society of the Plastics Industry ( SPI ) , and was formed by a group of plastic resin producers in 1988 to ad dress the role of plastics in the growing solid waste disposal problems of State and local governments across the United States . The mission of the Council is to develop positive solutions to the disposal concerns raised by plastics .

The Council believes that the Nation must move to an integrated solid waste management strategy which emphasizes waste reduction , recycling and resource recovery before land filling .

Developing technologies and methods to make these alternatives work is the best way to reduce the Nation ‘ s reliance on landfills to dispose of consumer waste .

A critical part of the Council ‘ s mission is to help build an infrastructure for recycling . Plastics recycling , in combination with waste reduction and resource recovery , can substantially reduce the stream of plastics materials which end up in landfills . Since solid waste management is primarily controlled by the laws of governmental entities , it follows that these laws can have a tremendous impact on the success of recycling as a strategy to reduce solid waste volumes .

Federal laws can significantly promote or discourage the growth of recycling as an industry and the development of markets for recycled materials.

To that end, the Council and the plastics industry have implemented a blueprint for plastics recycling . Underlying the activity of the Council for Solid Waste Solutions is the recognition that plastics are functionally valuable products which have revolutionized our society .

However , the Council also recognizes that disposal of plastics is one part of the dilemma our country faces as our landfills reach capacity .

The Council believes that the solution to the problems posed by plastics in the waste stream is to develop ef fective methods and technologies of recycling as an integral part of a comprehensive governmental approach to solid waste management .

To this end , the Council is engaged on many fronts .

First , the Council is working to define the scope of the solid waste disposal problem as it relates to plastics .

Second , the Council sponsors a wide variety of research and development activities .

We expect this work , among other things , to help determine the most effective methods , both institutional and technological , to retrieve plastics from solid waste streams for recycling , and to develop strong markets for recycled plastics . To this end , the Council serves as a clearinghouse for information on plastic recycling .

Third , the Council is assisting a number of local governments with pilot recycling programs to demonstrate the benefits and viability of plastics recycling .

Finally , the Council is working with Federal , State and local governments and other groups to devise appropriate and workable laws and rules which would promote the recycling of plastics .

A viable part of the solution for managing Municipal Solid Waste is community based curb – side recycling . Recycling for all materials involves an integrated process consisting of the steps of :

  • – First ; collecting the raw material ;
  • – Second ; sorting the material into marketable components ;
  • – Third ; reprocessing the material back into a usable form ; and finally
  • – Fourth ; producing and marketing a new product with the recycled material .

In plastics recycling the Nation is at the stage of ” walking before we can run ” : – glass , paper and metal cans have been recycled for many decades – some forms even for centuries ; – aluminum beverage containers for over 20 years ; – plastic beverage containers for over 10 years ; and – other plastic bottles and containers anywhere from 1 – 5 years .

H . R . 4942 , the National Recyclable Commodities Act of 1990 , would establish an aggressive national policy favoring recycling , and would define an active role for the Federal Government to play in setting standards for recycling and in promoting markets for recycling . The Council for Solid Waste Solutions believes many of the bill ‘ s provisions have merit , and are worthy of serious consideration . H . R . 4942 is generally well written from a technical standpoint .

The bill reflects thorough research and careful thinking about the obstacles to establishment of recy cling as a solid waste management strategy . It recognizes that a strong Federal role is necessary to establish national recycling policy and to assure the success of recy cling . The provisions of the bill generally work together to address the major bar riers to recycling .

The bill recognizes that the Federal Government can play an ef fective and useful role in promoting recycling by ( 1 ) setting recycling and labeling standards ; ( 2 ) collecting and disseminating important information about recycling ; and ( 3 ) procuring recycled goods .

`I will review a couple of the major portions of the bill .

Several suggestions for changes that we believe would improve the bill have been included in our written testimony .

The Council is pleased to have the opportunity to comment on the bill , and would like to be involved in developing changes to make the bill stronger in reaching its objectives .

Section 4 of the bill requires the Secretary of Commerce to gather statistics on an annual basis concerning the composition of municipal refuse including the quanti ties of plastic scrap .

The Secretary also is required to collect statistics and informa tion on recycling techniques , available markets for recycled goods , existing capacity for the manufacture of recycled goods , and specific techniques to source – separate and collect materials for recycling . The Secretary is directed to revise the Standard Industrial Classification ( SIC ) system as necessary to facilitate collection of recycling statistics . Several other por tions of the bill , including sections 6 , 10 and 11 , authorize the collection of informa tion and the sponsoring of public education activities . Currently , the availability of much of this information is limited . To the extent such information exists , it is generated by private groups interested in recycling , : , and to a limited degree by EPA . In either case the information is not generated in a comprehensive manner .

The bill would establish the Federal Government as a source for comprehensive information about waste streams , markets and recycling technology which will facilitate the growth of recycling industries .

The Council for Solid Waste Solutions supports the compilation and dissemination of this informa tion on a national basis . Section 5 of the bill directs the Secretary to establish specifications or grades for recyclable commodities in municipal refuse and test methodologies . Technical speci fications are to be established only after consultation with recycling industries and affected parties .

The bill also would create an advisory panel to consult with the Secretary on specifications and test methodologies , and would authorize industry members and local governments to petition for changes in specifications or test methods .

The Council is concerned that development of industry specifications may be more appropriately handled privately , as markets for the goods develop and sup plies become more plentiful . A number of industry and trade groups specialize in the development of materials specifications and testing methods , and could easily and efficiently provide this function for recyclable commodities as well .

If the provision is retained , the require ment to form an advisory panel is crucial so that government standards have the benefit of substantial industry input .

Section 5 also would authorize the Secretary to issue “ recycling advisories ” re garding physical or chemical properties or contaminants in waste streams which could interfere with recycling efforts .

This provision could be of great assistance in identifying impediments to recycling posed by new materials in the waste stream and to provide the latest information about recycling . We submit , however , that the Secretary should ensure that evaluation of the characteristics of any product or package should take into account all aspects of solid waste management .

For exam ple , some packaging which could contribute significantly to source reduction may not be as easily recycled or have a high recycled content .

Such trade – offs must be evaluated . Section 7 of the bill requires the Secretary to prepare and submit to Congress sep arate reports on the potential for expanded recycling of : ( 1 ) waste paper and paper board , rubber scrap , plastic scrap , ferrous scrap , and lead scrap ; and ( 2 ) aluminum scrap , other non – ferrous scrap , waste glass , and yard and food waste .

The reports must focus on :

  • ( 1 ) source separation , collection and processing tech niques ;
  • ( 2 ) adequacy of capacity ; ( 3 ) adequacy of transportation facilities and techni markets ;
  • ( 4 ) opportunities for stockpiling materials that cannot be used immediately ;
  • ( 5 ) the extent of Federal subsidies or other incentives provided for the manufacture of goods from virgin materials in competition with goods manufactured from recyclables ; and
  • ( 6 ) the ability to influence private and government investment in recycling .

The reports also may make recommendations for further congressional action to promote recycling . This section would provide much – needed focus on the potential of recycling as a partial answer to the solid waste management dilemmas currently faced by many local governments . In the case of plastics , private industry is greatly expanding the possible uses for recycled plastics materials . We support the Federal Government taking the initial steps to address recycling , and hope these reports to Congress can identify areas in which recycling can be instituted or increased .

Section 8 of the bill establishes a largely mandatory program augmented with a voluntary product labeling element for labeling of ” containers and packaging ” as recyclable or non recyclable . Product labeling serves a number of purposes , and any labeling program must take those purposes into account .

The Council believes that all product labeling must serve the purpose for which it was developed and must be clear to consumers . The Council is concerned that the labeling provisions of H . R . 4942 , as currently drafted , have workability problems , may not promote recycling and could be confusing to consumers .

Under this section of the bill , containers and packaging are to be labeled as “ Recyclable ” or “ Non – recyclable ” based upon the ” demonstrated recyclability ” of the principal constituent material of the item . “

Demonstrated recyclability ” exists if the principal constituent material is recycled at a rate of at least 10 percent nationwide or in two or more regions established in the bill .

Recyclability also could be demonstrated by a successful fullscale or pilot scale recycling operation combined with programs for recycling of the principal con stituent that are planned to achieve a 10 percent recycling rate ( in two or more re gions ) within 3 years after the date an initial determination of recyclability is made .

Items determined to be recyclable are required to be labeled as comprised of “ RE CYCLABLE – – – , ” with the blank space filled in with the constituent material used in manufacturing the items . Products which are determined by the Secretary to be non recyclable , ie . , products for which recyclability has not been demonstrated , are required to be labeled as “ NON – RECYCLABLE BY FEDERAL STANDARDS . ”

A labeling system that is intended to facilitate separation for recycling is particu larly appropriate for plastics , because plastics made of different resins must be sepa rated for recycling . It is possible to make recycled products from mixed plastics , but separating products according to resin makes it possible to produce a wider variety and higher quality of recycled products .

The Society for the Plastics Industry ( SPI ) has developed an effective coding system that is in wide use currently and that has been adopted as mandatory by 24 States . The codes are intended to be used only to facilitate separation by resin , and do not have a consumer education or marketing function . The SPI code indicates the type of resin from which products are made .

The system facilitates sorting of plastics products for recycling . The Council is concerned that the labeling provisions of H . R . 4942 , as drafted , may not effectively identify plastic resins for recycling purposes , but may limit or foreclose use of the SPI system , which is effective and already implemented .

Federal legislation should incorporate the SPI system into any Federal labeling system in tended to facilitate recycling , or at a minimum provide that the Federal labeling system does not preclude use of the SPI system .

As H . R . 4942 is currently drafted , plastics would not be labeled to identify the resins from which they are made unless they meet the 10 percent threshold of the bill .

This provision causes serious problems ; the fact that less than 10 percent of the products is recycled does not mean that the plastic is technically incapable of being recycled , or that a recycling facility has less need to know the identity of the resin used to make them .

If for no other reason , recyclers must know the resin type so they can separate the product from streams destined for recycling .

Additionally , the council is concerned that the labeling provisions may discourage recycling efforts and stigmatize products unnecessarily .

The bill ‘ s threshold of 10 percent appears to be intended to prevent products that are not recycled in practice from bearing a label of recyclability.

However , the labeling system could stigmatize new products and new recycling processes that cannot meet the threshold initially , despite best efforts and promising technology .

Those products must bear a label of nonrecyclability and their producers must fight the resulting ( inaccurate ) public perception that the products are technically incapable of being recycled . As any plastics recycler could attest , it is difficult enough to educate the public about the recyclability of plastics without being required to label products ” nonrecyclable ”

when the basis for the label is in large part due to public misperception regarding recyclability .

Assuming that the bill ‘ s labeling system would displace the SPI coding system ( a reasonable assumption since the two systems have at least one function in common ) , products that are “ nonrecyclable ” would not carry important information about the product ingredient , further frustrating recycling efforts .

We strongly rec ommend that the “ nonrecyclable ” label is counterproductive , would frustrate rather than cause increases in recycling , and should be modified .

The problem underlying our concerns about the 10 percent threshold is that the proposed system would address two concerns jointly that may need separate resolu tion : ( 1 ) identification of the principal constituent to facilitate recycling ; and ( 2 ) edu cation of the public about recyclability . While both purposes are important , they do not work well together in this case . The bill would not allow products to be labeled with constituent information unless a certain percentage of recycling is occurring .

For plastics and for other materials , the type of resin or material used in a product needs to be identified on its label regardless of the percentage of materials which actually are being recycled . However , in an attempt to ensure that consumers are not misled about the amount of recycling which is occurring , the bill equates recy clability with percentage being recycled , and does not allow constituent information unless the threshold is met .

While this system gives the public a message , it may be a confusing or inaccurate message , and the message does not facilitate recycling . one way to address complex labeling issues is to authorize a rulemaking overseen by the Federal Trade Commission , in which standards for environmental labeling would be developed .

The issues of public education and consumer confusion could be addressed and resolved most thoroughly in that kind of process .

The requirement to label a product “ nonrecyclable , ” while certainly intended to educate the public , in fact could confuse consumers by creating the erroneous im pression that a product is not technically capable of being recycled when the failure to recycle may be economic or a consequence of consumer misunderstanding .

Envi ronmental labeling to educate the public is certainly a matter worthy of Congress ‘ attention , and one calling for national standards , but public education labeling should be addressed in an FTC rulemaking , rather than in legislation , and in any event separately from labeling to facilitate sorting and recycling . .

The requirement for mandatory labeling would apply to containers and packaging of food , beverages , soaps , detergents , cleaning preparations , personal care products and other items sold in food stores , liquor stores and drug stores .

The labeling re quirement would be applicable to liquid containers holding in excess of four ( 4 ) fluid ounces and to other containers and packaging holding materials in excess of eight ( 8 ) ounces by weight . The Secretary would also have discretion to require labeling of even smaller packages .

The Council is concerned that the labeling provisions may not be workable be cause they would apply to such a broad class of materials , some of which may be difficult or impractical to include in any program encouraging recycling .

Under the definitions contained in section 19 of the terms ” container ” and “ packaging , ” the labeling requirements would apply not only to rigid and semi – rigid containers but also to flexible wraps . Cellophane and some plastics wraps may be difficult to label and impractical to recycle . Some adjustments to the bill ‘ s definitions could remedy this problem .

Another problem with the labeling provisions is the potential for confusion of la beling required for products and packaging in which they are sold . If the product itself is not consumed in its use , the potential for confusion is enhanced . For exam ple , what if the product itself is a packaging material ?

Again , some clarification ap ncer to suche in any pfterms cid and semay be pears nee if the proceed in its Ironically , if the package is too small to accommodate the Federal recycling label , in addition to other information that may already be mandated under various other existing Federal laws , the manufacturer may be required to increase the packaging material used to market the product to accommodate the recycling label , thereby contributing more packaging to the solid waste stream that must be managed or disposed of .

Section 9 of the bill requires the Secretary to issue guidelines for procurement by Federal agencies of items with recycled material content .

The section contains a schedule for regulations to be issued establishing guidelines for particular categories of products .

A specific deficiency of this section of the bill is that the guidelines target procurement of containers and packaging made from recycled material rather than recycled items made from the recycling of containers and packaging .

In some cases , recycled plastics cannot be used to make containers and packaging used for food or other sanitary packaging needs . Limiting procurement to these plastics sup plies and other materials which are currently made from recycled plastics which could be procured by the Federal Government .

Many more such products will appear in the future .

The provision should be amended to enlarge the universe of plastics products with recycled content to be procured by the Federal Government .

The section includes general requirements applicable to procurement by Federal agencies . Under these requirements , a premium is permitted to be paid of up to 10 percent more than the price of alternative items not manufactured from recycled materials .

The Secretary should consider the “ life – time ” cost or of alternative prod ucts in determining whether the 10 percent premium is exceeded .

A novel aspect of this section of the bill is an “ Affirmative Action Program ” for procurement of items composed of recycled materials . Under the bill ‘ s Affirmative Procurement Program , a preference is accorded to products composed of recycled material .

In this regard , this section is more detailed and likely to be more effective than comparable provi sions in other bills .

The section establishes a clear Federal policy directive of maxi mizing use of recycled material .

Section 12 of the bill requires the Secretary to establish a program for the source separation and collection of recyclable materials from Federal departments and agencies . Among the materials to be source – separated and collected are waste paper and paperboard , waste glass , and aluminum scrap .

Although the Secretary is au thorized to identify other materials to be segregated and collected , plastic scrap is not specifically identified .

Discarded polystyrene foam cups ( and cafeteria trays ) should be specifically identified among the materials designated for segregation and collection .

These materials are used in large volumes in Federal food service instal lations , and could be recycled .

In fact , the Architect of the Capitol will be starting a demonstration project recycling these items in the near future .

The Council is pleased to have played an important supporting role in developing the Capitol Hill Plastic Recycling Project with the Architect of the Capitol .

The section provides that funds received by an agency for the sale of recyclable material and savings in refuse disposal costs are to be retained by the Federal agency implementing a recycling program .

This provision creates a budgetary incentive within Federal agencies to participate aggressively in source separation and recycling projects . Section 14 authorizes the establishment of an interagency working group to assist the Secretary in development of regulations and guidelines under the legislation .

The group is to include representatives of EPA and the Departments of Agriculture , Treasury , Transportation , Interior , Energy and the Treasury .

Although other de partments and agencies may be included within the interagency working group , nei ther the Department of Defense , the Federal Trade Commission nor GSA are specif ically identified . CSWS recommends expansion of the interagency working group to include representatives of these three agencies .

To summarize , the Council supports the establishment of specifications for recyclable commodities , but believes H . R . 4942 should be strengthened to ensure that private industry is consulted so that the specifications achieve their commercial ob jectives .

Proper labeling of recyclable commodities is a critical part of building an infra structure for recycling . We believe the SPI Coding System , which has already been adopted by 24 States , should be expressly incorporated .

The bill ‘ s “ 10 percent threshold , ” intended to prevent products that are not recycled in practice from bear ing a label of recyclability , while well motivated should be avoided because it would confuse the public and discourage recycling .

The “ Non – recyclable ” label provided for in H . R . 4942 should be dropped from the bill because it would confuse consumers by creating the erroneous impression that recyclable products are not technically capable of being recycled .

The Federal procurement guidelines should not be limited to containers and pack aging made from recycled material .

Instead , the Federal procurement guidelines should be more broadly targeted to cover all recycled items made from the recycling of containers and packaging .

The Council believes that with the changes outlined in this testimony , H . R . 4942 could make a meaningful contribution to solving our Nation ‘ s solid waste disposal problems .



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