Multi-Layer Plastic Bottle Bill Opposed

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Multi-Layer Plastic Bottle Bill Opposed  Posted: March 13, 2006
Dear Representative Simpson:

I?m writing to convey KRC’s concerns regarding HB 574. I appreciate your taking the time to review these concerns, and would be happy to talk with you further or provide additional information on any of these points.

HB 574 seeks to amend KRS 224.50-585 to add language that would allow multi-layer plastic “barrier” bottled to be labeled as #1 PETE (Polyethylene Teraphthalate) when the barrier layer of these bottles may consist of nylon or EVOH in as many as five layers sandwiched in between inner and outer layers of PETE. KRC is concerned that allowing these multi-layer plastic barrier bottles to be labeled as #1 PETE will adversely affect recycling efforts by eventually contaminating the PETE recycling stream and eroding PETE markets, thus causing public and private recyclers to abandon PETE collection, with the end result of more material going into the state’s landfills.

The resin identification code that Kentucky codified at KRS 224.50-585 in 1991 was developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) in an effort to meet the needs of recyclers while providing manufacturers a uniform, consistent nationwide system of resin identification. The SPI has noted that “improper use of the SPI resin identification code can have serious ramifications for individual manufacturers and could jeopardize the integrity of the coding system.” Coding enables individuals to sort before recycling, ensuring that the recycled plastic is as homogeneous as possible to meet the needs to of the end markets, which place a high premium on the purity of post-use plastics. The bottling industry, which marketed barrier bottles in California and Wisconsin as #1 without state approval, has yet to convince the Society of Plastics Industry to change their coding system and until then should not be allowed to market layered barrier bottles containing nylon and EVOH as PETE since they clearly are not.

Under the SPI code, and under KRS 224.50-585(2), layered plastics of a combination of materials” must be coded as a #7 (Other). Multi-layer barrier bottles are not compatible with recovered PETE for use in higher paying markets such as making new plastic bottles, and thus lower the value of the plastics for local recycling collection facilities. 2-3% contamination is sufficient to eliminate this high-end market.

PETE bottle manufacturers and bottling companies already have a poor track record of recycling recovered PETE back into their products (only 21% of all PETE to all bottles and containers to all markets) and adding additional contamination will cause many to drop recycled resin altogether.

Market values for recovered PETE are at very high levels right now, and fully 1/3 of the PETE is being exported. If barrier bottle market penetration hits the industry’s projected 60+% of the clear bottle soft drink market segment, current methods of sorting will not be able to accommodate and the value of recovered PETE and any other combined resins will become virtually worthless.

There is concern as well that allowing multi-layer bottles to be coded #1 will accelerate the loss of aluminum cans in the market. At best, recovered PETE is worth only 17% as much as aluminum cans currently, and recovered PETE costs more to process.

For each and all of these reasons, allowing the labeling of multi-material and multi-layered barrier bottles as #1 PETE should not be allowed.

In addition to these concerns, there are specific problems with the bill language that I would like to call to your attention.

The proposed bill would alter the SPI code by allowing a layered bottle to use a #1 PETE coding “if the material constituting the product label, base cup, layer of resin, or other plastic component is the same predominant resin as that in the bottle or container so as to be compatible for purposes of recycling.”

The term “predominant” is not defined, thus making enforcement of the coding problematic. Additionally, the term “compatible” is not defined, leaving it unclear whether the term means “technically” recyclable, rather than “economically” compatible. Since the presence of these bottles in the recovered material stream may increase net costs by requiring sorting by color for some markets or by lowering collected value, the terms needs to be clarified.

Finally, and perhaps most basically, the bill does not accomplish the industry’s intended goal of allowing barrier bottles with layers comprised of glass, nylon or EVOH to be coded as PETE. Nylon and EVOH layers are not composed of PETE, and as such, would not be allowed to be coded as #1 under the bill. The preface to the new subsection (3) makes the subsection applicable to a “layer of resin . . . made of material different from that constituting the rest of the bottle or container” and then allows the bottle or container to be coded as #1 only “if the material constituting the . . . layer of resin . . . is the same predominant resin as that in the bottle or container. . . .” Since nylon and EVOH layers are not the same predominant resin as the remainder of the bottle, they would not be eligible for coding as #1. The internal inconsistency of the new language highlights and underscores the fundamental flaw in the proposition. The nylon and EVOH barrier layers are not PETE, and calling them PETE will erode the current markets and damage recovery efforts for PETE.

For each and all of these reasons, I ask you not to move forward with this bill.


Tom FitzGerald

By Kentucky Resources Council on 03/13/2006 5:32 PM
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