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Separating plastics for future use.

A major barrier to recycling the billions of plastic soda bottles emptied by thirsty consumers each year has been overcome. A new process makes possible high-precision separation of plastic wastes so incompatible that small amounts of one would contaminate 500 tons of the other. Millions of pounds of plastic waste thus can be diverted from landfills to become reusable products.

"The problems limiting greater recycling and reuse of plastic waste are partly simple physical problems of separating one type of plastic from another," explains John Maczko of Recovery Processes international, Saft Lake City, Utah. "But separation is an extraordinarily difficult [process] that hinders nationwide efforts to recycle and reuse plastics. We have solved that problem for one of most common kinds of plastic used in consumer products.'

The plastic is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a clear, tough, non-toxic material used to make virtually all plastic soda bottles. By one estimate, Americans empty more than 2,000,000 plastic bottles every hour of every day. Many of these are PET, which also is used in containers for vegetable oil and certain other goods. Since plastic require long periods of time to disintegrate and take up a large volume of space in landfills, finding ways to recycle them - and manufacture biodegradable types - have become important national environmental priorities.
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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