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September 13, 1999

Virgin materials gain subsidy benefits

The Aug. 30th letter by George Makrauer, "Marketplace proves reality of recycling," lambastes Plastics News' support for recycling and argues for a "real taste of the free-enterprise system." However, in doing so he conveniently neglects to point out that during the past five years the virgin oil, gas and coal industries--critical to the manufacture of virgin plastics--have benefited from more than $4 billion worth of direct federal subsidies and untold millions--if not billions--in indirect subsidies.

According to government budget projections, federal subsidies for the virgin minerals, forestry and mining industries are expected to climb to $17 billion during the next five years.

If the "real free-enterprise system" (whatever that is) were allowed to hold sway, recovering and reprocessing already refined plastics into new commodities, rather than relying on expensive and polluting virgin resources, would be much more cost effective.

If he's so enamored with the "free-enterprise system," why doesn't Mr. Makrauer ask for an end to all subsidies for virgin producers before attacking the more environmentally responsible process of recycling?

Allen Hershkowitz

Natural Resources Defense Council

New York

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