recycling: Improvements in Dynamics Mold Recycled Plastics' Future

Recycled plastics demand in the United States is projected to increase 10 ercent annually to 2.8 billion pounds in the year 2000, according to The Freedonia Group Inc., an industrial market research firm based in Cleveland. Growth will be based upon expanded collection networks, improved sorting and processing technologies, and further end-product development.

Projected recycled plastics growth will be significantly slower than in the past because of factors such as changing consumer attitudes toward recycling and shifts away from politically driven legislation, according to Freedonia's 1997 "Plastics Recycling" study. However, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyethylene terepthalate (PET) will remain the dominant resins, accounting for two-thirds of all recycled resins, because they are easily collected and segregated.

Advances in plastics recycling will depend on factors such as continued public interest and lower recycled resin prices. Lower prices result in part from sorting and processing machinery improvements in applications such as packaging household and institutional cleaners.

Recycled plastics also cost less than virgin resins, offer similar quality and provide image and marketing advantages. Counteracting influences include low virgin resin prices and over-capacity in virgin resins such as PET. Changing political climates also signify a weakening of legislative recycling efforts, which already has been witnessed in vanguard states such as California and Florida, the report notes.

Freedonia expects recycled HDPE demand to expand based on opportunities in large volume bottle and film uses, and rapid growth in smaller volume plastic lumber, pallet and other markets.

Recycled PET demand will be driven by growing collection rates and expanded markets. Consumers will be the dominant users, especially with anticipated applications in polyester fiber and fiberfill in home furnishing, apparel production processes and carpet fiber, and with growing use as insulation and cushioning for winter jackets, comforters and other textile products. Recycled PET is ideal for fibers because they require less expensive grades and processing than resins, the report says.

HDPE is relatively easy to recycle, and the demand for products made from it will heighten its growth. For example, bottles are the leading HDPE product, and their demand is expected to increase nearly 11 percent annually through 2002. Strong demand will continue for recycled natural bottles, although more growth is anticipated for pigmented bottle sources such as motor oil, shampoo and cosmetics.

Bottles also will remain the dominant use of PET because they are easily available and easy to collect, and there has been rapid growth in carbonated soft drink bottling applications. Custom bottle sources will remain at lower levels but still will exhibit higher growth rates because of the increased collection of plastic bottles for products such as salad oils.

Tray and other packaging sources also are expected to expand rapidly as consumers increasingly recycle trays, bowls and other packaging from frozen food preparations and similar products.

Packaging, the major source of recycled plastics, is expected to remain the market leader because of its widespread bottle and film applications, and its growing food contact applications as a result of advanced supercleaning and depolymerization technologies.

Motor vehicle markets are expected to grow at a below-average pace because of battery market saturation and low recycling rates for engineered resins such as nylon and polycarbonate.

Overall, bottle and film uses seem to provide the best opportunities for recycled plastics in packaging. These uses are ideally suited to closed-loop recycling, the preferred method for dealing with plastic wastes. Bottle markets for recycled plastics primarily consist of HDPE and high-purity PET. Film and sheet applications will be stimulated by greater use in products such as retail shopping bags and trash bags. And, foamed packaging, strapping and pallets will provide smaller volume but high-growth opportunities for recycled plastics.

"Plastics Recycling is available from The Freedonia Group Inc., 767 Beta Dr., Cleveland, Ohio 44143. Phone: (440) 684-9600. Fax: (440) 646-0484. E-mail: [email protected] Website:

Acquisitions IESI Corp., Haltom City, Texas, has acquired the hauling assets from 12 companies in Arkansas, Georgia, New York and Texas that are expected to generate annual revenues of approximately $14,500,000. This includes: Arkansas Waste Inc. and Cherokee Sanitary Landfill, Hardy, Ark.; Fiddler's Green Inc., Herber Springs, Ark.; Central Texas Waste Systems Inc., Austin; Waste Watchers Inc., Dallas; Mac-Pac Disposal Inc., Houston; Spartan Dismantling Corp., New York; and two companies in North Georgia that serve Paulding, Douglas and Cobb Counties. IESI also has acquired three collection and recycling companies in New York City - Dellvena Group, Vibro Group Inc. and the LaCavella Group.

U.S. Filter Corp., Bradley, Ill., has acquired Gardiner Equipment Co. Inc., Houston.

Acquisition Waste Connections Inc., Roseville, Calif., has closed on seven acquisitions representing annual revenues of approximately $6 million. The acquired businesses include: Affiliated Waste Services and Wolff's Trashmasher in Nebraska; Dee's Dumpster and County Garbage in Utah; Harrells Septic in Oregon; Youngclaus Enterprises in California; and Evergreen Waste Systems in Washington State.

Agreement Mack Trucks Inc., Allentown, Pa., and Cummins Engine Co. Inc., Columbus, Ind., have announced a long-term agreement making Cummins the exclusive engine supplier for Mack customers that require electronic engines smaller or larger than those offered in Mack's line.

World Wastes Launches New Website ATLANTA - World Wastes readers now can get solid waste information online. Unveiled this month, features daily headline news, article archives, links to other solid waste-related sites and advertising information.

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