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November 10, 1997

Recycling not vital to plastics' success

Will the environmental community (and Plastics News) look back someday and cite 1987-97 as the low watermark for their acumen about plastics recycling? Let's hope so.

Those who bemoan the rate of plastics recycling today as being in a "depressed state" continue to ignore two facts of real life: Technology makes progress and markets work.

The plastics industry has nothing to hide about its activities, recycling included. The industry is right to be proud about its accomplishments -- its materials continue to improve product performance at low cost to the benefit of consumers, commercial customers and the environment. If that were not a fact, glass, paper and metal would not continue to lose markets to plastics.

The plastics industry has been eager to support revolutionary steps that improve resins, processing and waste minimization. The industry also has been willing to support -- with hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and operations -- radical steps in recycling that have been rejected by customers and consumers as being worthless when compared to the overriding benefits of source reduction in plastic packaging and plastic products. Technology and the market work.

The 1997 Nobel Prize in economics was given to Robert Merton and Myron Scholes for their work demonstrating that "stock options, along with other financial derivatives, are attractive for one main reason: They reduce risk at low cost," as stated in a Wall Street Journal editorial Oct. 15.

Plastics industry achievements for decades have delivered superior performance at low cost. Although that might not be worthy of a Nobel Prize, it is certainly worthy of more than the Environmental Defense Fund's blind opinions and Plastics News' water-carrying.

Short of a change of reason, plastics recycling mourners will suffer at the quirk of their fantasies -- and remain a target of derision from enlightened scientists and realist thinkers.

George Makrauer
ComAd Management Group Inc.
Treasure Island, Fla.

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