An August 26 report by online editor Anthony Clark of the UK-housed Plastics & Rubber Weekly caught my attention the other day, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more confirmed I’ve become in my desire to share it with you, so here goes:
EuPR Says PET Study unwise and dangerous
EuPR [European Plastics Recyclers trade association, representing 80% of the European market] has condemned a PET recycling study by SRI Consulting as "dangerous."
The document states that "disposing of bottles in landfill generates a lower carbon footprint than recycling or incineration." It also states that "waste shipping distances are not footprint critical."
According to EuPR, the report, “PET’s Carbon Footprint: To Recycle or Not to Recycle,” is inconsistent with the move toward a recycling society. “This publication is unwise, dangerous for sustainability and goes against the European legislation,” according to Casper van den Dungen, EuPR’s PET working group chairman and vice president.
Moreover, van den Dungen added that “by applying the SRI Consulting results, we would lose valuable material in landfills. The used model is intrinsically wrong as in reality landfill should be avoided as a starting principle.” [emphasis mine]
Regarding exports outside Europe, “the study is wrongly indicating that a one-way transport is not critical from a carbon footprint point of view. Although, much is coming back as imported products with a higher carbon footprint compared to our local alternatives in Europe.”
Additionally, these “kind of studies are hazardous because they are bringing a wrong message to the population: Your efforts to recycle are useless. It goes against all the efforts achieved during the past decades in order to reduce litter.”
To me, this agenda-driven approach to environmental challenges is the epitome of what is on our shores as well the triumph of religion over science. So long as our environmental programs represent the unchallengeable beliefs of self-annoited saviors of the planet, and so long as we put off the establishment of a truly viable recycling infrastructure, we will continue in the nonproductive tail chase in which we are now engaged.
What was the SRI Consulting report, and what did it say? According to SRI:
Plastic-Bottle Recycling: Not Always Lowest-Carbon Option
SRI Consulting Publishes PET’s Carbon Footprint Report; Menlo Park, CA. August 9, 2010
For countries with adequate space and little recycling infrastructure, disposing of bottles in landfill generates a lower carbon footprint than recycling or incineration. Today, SRI Consulting (SRIC) published PET’s Carbon Footprint: To Recycle or Not To Recycle, an independent evaluation of the carbon footprint of PET bottles with an analysis of secondary packaging from cradle to grave and from production of raw materials through to disposal.
Recycling programs using curbside collection typically displace less than 50% of new PET (polyethylene terephthalate). Community programs with plastic bottle take-back, mandated separate collection, or deposits on bottles tend to report much higher displacement rates. For regions that already have a recycling infrastructure, the aim should be to boost recycled PET (rPET) displacement of virgin PET (vPET) significantly above 50%.
Mike Arné, assistant director, SRIC’s Carbon Footprint Initiative, commented “The key to this is not in raising collection rates, but in improving yields, especially in sorting and to a lesser extent in reprocessing. For countries without a recycling infrastructure, the best choice may well be to landfill bottles.”
The report finds:
Shipping distances are not footprint critical—Contrary to some popular belief, the common practice of shipping baled PET bottles to China for recycling does not significantly affect the footprint.
Incineration creates the highest footprint—Burning used bottles in waste incinerators converts them largely to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, which then goes straight into the atmosphere. This footprint debit can be reduced somewhat by generating power and heat from the incinerator, but the net effect is still carbon positive.
PET recyclate has a lower footprint than new virgin PET—Manufacturers making product from recycled PET, such as straps, films and fibers, should be able to claim that they are lower-carbon than alternatives made from new PET.
The study draws on SRIC’s deep knowledge of chemicals and plastics production as well as its renowned Carbon Footprint Yearbook. This report provides an unbiased and transparent analysis that has been independently developed. It is thoroughly documented for those interested in the details of the analysis. This report should be of interest to producers and users of PET as well as regulators and policy makers.
For additional information about PET’s Carbon Footprint: To Recycle or Not To Recycle, please contact Russell Heinen at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 281 203 6285, or visit the Web site at www.sriconsulting.com for SRIC’s complete offering of reports.
About SRI Consulting (SRIC)
SRI Consulting is the world’s leading business research service for the global chemical industry. Publishing for more than 60 years, SRI Consulting is the preeminent source for in-depth business and process analysis. This report was developed by the Carbon Footprint Initiative, providing comprehensive and current information on carbon emissions. SRI Consulting's headquarters are located in Menlo Park, CA, with offices in The Woodlands, Texas; Zürich, Switzerland; Tokyo, Japan; and Beijing, China. Representatives of SRI Consulting can also be found in New Delhi, India; Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia; and Seoul, Korea. SRI Consulting is a division of Access Intelligence, LLC. Additional information is available at www.sriconsulting.com