Reporting, for real By Susan Collins, CRI Executive Director

Reporting, for real
By Susan Collins, CRI Executive Director

This piece originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Resource Recycling, as part of the article, "Recycling: The Next 10 Years, Part II" by Arthur Boone.

We need to start reporting what is actually recycled, not what is collected for recycling. Process losses occur at the materials recovery facility (MRF) when contaminants are removed, and even greater levels of contamination are removed when materials arrive at paper mills, plastics reclaimers and the like.

For example, The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) recently reported a 29 percent “recycling rate” for PET plastic for 2009, but the same document reports yield of only 21 percent for PET, once the contamination has been removed. Some of the contamination in PET is naturally attached to the bottle, as caps, labels and adhesives. Many of the caps are polypropylene, and they are removed and recycled. When that recycling occurs, the weight of those caps are counted again in the polypropylene recycling rate. The labels, adhesives and other contaminants are disposed of, but their weight has already been counted as “recycling.”

To correct these reporting errors and situations of double-counting, the actual recycling and disposal rates from the processors need to be incorporated into the information that is being reported back to municipalities, state governments and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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