GRN Recycle Talk FAQ
Answer

From: Fred Friedman (FRIEDMAN.FRED@EPAMAIL.EPA.GOV)
Date: Thu Sep 03 1998 - 11:07:00 EDT


Date: Thu, 3 Sep 98 11:07 EDT
From: FRIEDMAN.FRED@EPAMAIL.EPA.GOV (Fred Friedman)
Subject: Re: Recycling Manufactured Materials

Sept. 3, 1998

What are the advantages disadvantages of recycling manufactured materials referential to degradation?:

This is a curious question that might be interpreted in several ways:

1. Should we promote degradation so as not to have to recycle?

The answer to that is, this is appropriate to some manufactured materials and not to others. Who wants, for example, their refrigerator's components starting to biodegrade while the appliance is in use?
On the other hand, degradation of manufactured materials creates problems for recycling, or interpretted the other way, the expectation of recycling creates problems for the manufacture of degradable materials. Case in point here is in agricultural plastics: some resins are made to degrade and some are not, and this creates problems for would-be recyclers or would-be let it rot advocates.

2. Should manufactured materials be recycled vis a vis the sale and economy based on the manufacture of new products and of planned obsolescence?

The answer to that is the current and future infrastructure of recyclability: it makes more economic and environmental sense to develop remanufacturing for obsolescent goods than it does for virgin materials manufacture.

3. Is there sufficient biodegradability that may be built into currently recycled manufactured articles, that will take them out of the recycling loop?

Probably. However, degradability has been around as a waste management concept especially regarding plastics for 25 years, and the technologies for so doing are still to be perfected for a wide range of articles: there is only a small number of plastics in specific forms to which degradability has been successfully applied.
There is no current R D or manufacturing reason to believe that degradation will allow the segregation from the need to recycle, of many more goods in the near term.

If there are other aspects to this question that you wish to ask, please do, specifically, and I will try to respond in future visits to GRN.

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