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June 2004

Plastics Recycling Crisis Deepens

Arlington, VA— The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, (APR), is commencing an urgent campaign to generate awareness, committed action, and noteworthy results in reversing the waning North American plastic container recycling rate.

The milestone decision to retain the Washington D.C. government relations firm of Kinghorn, Hilbert & Associates is in response to an overwhelming APR membership declaration that the continued critical shortage of bottles collected for recycling will soon cause the collapse of the North American plastics recycling infrastructure.

”We are dangerously close to irreversibly losing significant amounts of recycling capacity. Many, including the largest plastic reclaimers, are at risk. Business as usual cannot continue,” says Robin Cotchan, APR’s Executive Director.

An export surge to China, exceeding 35% of the U.S. PET bottles collected, has aggravated the supply shortage and inflated domestic market prices. To meet the suppressed demand of the plastics recycling industry in North America and the expected ongoing exports to China, the collection of recyclable HDPE and PET plastic bottles needs to double to a level of 2.5 to 3 billion pounds within the next 24 months.

The primary collection mechanisms in the United States, locally funded curbside collection and traditional deposit-redemption systems, have been insufficient to supply the needed growth in post-consumer bottles. The status quo is not working, and continuing the decade-long, polarized debate between the beverage industry and environmentalists will not solve the problem.

Progressive and creative collection programs, which have proven successful in Canada, Australia and Europe need to be evaluated, customized to complement the U.S. culture, and promoted to each sovereign state as new approaches in establishing effective and meaningful recycling programs. A model collection program should embrace certain key principles in order to succeed; such as

• A definition of materials to be collected and processed.

• A realistic and measurable goal.

• An identifiable entity accountable for achieving the goal.

• A sustainable funding mechanism.

• Practical stakeholder equity.


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