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Industrial Waste Diversion Program 
Final Reports #9 



EVALUATION AND RESEARCH REPORT 

ON THE USE OF A 

NEW BIODEGRADABLE RESIN 



JUNE 1991 




Environment 
Environnement 



Ontario 



ISBN 0-7729-7539-6 



INDUSTRIAL WASTE DIVERSION PROGRAM 
FINAL REPORTS # 9 

EVALUATION AND RESEARCH REPORT ON THE 
USE OF A NEW BIODEGRADABLE RESIN 



Report Prepared For: 

Waste Management Branch 
Ontario Ministry of the Environment 



First Printed June 1991 
Reprinted March 1992 

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PRMTBION 

RKTCIB) PUPEB 

MffllMf SUR 

DU PAPIER RECYOi 

Cette pubUcation technique 
n'est disponible qu'en anglais. 

Copyright: Queen's Printer for Ontario, 1992 

This publication may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes 

with appropriate attribution. 

PmS 1568 



EVALUATION AND RESEARCH REPORT ON THE 
USE OF A NEW BIODEGRADABLE RESIN 



Report Prepared For: 

Waste Management Branch 
Ontario Ministry of the Environment 



In Consultation With: 
Suzanne Irwin-WhyUe 

Report Prepared By: 
SUZANNE IRWIN-WHYLIE 



DISCLAIMER 



This report is in partial fulfillment of conditions of a grant given to Uthane Research Ltd. by the 
Ministry of the Environment under the Industrial Waste Diversion Program. The repon was 
prepared by Suzanne Irwin-Whylie for Uthane Research Ltd. and documents results of work for 
which the Ministry of the Environment provided financial assistance. 

The views and ideas expressed in this repon are those of the authors and do not reflect 
necessarily the views and policies of the Ministry of the Environment, nor does mention of trade 
names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

Page 

INTRODUCTION i 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION 1 

WASTE MANAGEMENT ALTERNATIVES 4 

ATTITUDES OF COMMERCIAL/ INDUSTRIAL SECTORS 9 

BIODEGRADABLE - IS IT THE ANSWER? 11 

PLASTICS ISSUE 17 

ACCEPTABILITY OF EXISTING TECHNOLOGIES & THEIR END PRODUCTS 20 

POTENTIAL MARKETS FOR DEGRADABLE POLYMERS 24 

SUMMARY 30 

FOOTNOTES 32 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 35 



INTRODUCTION 

This study has been undertaken for Uthane Research Ltd., to identify 
potential markets, determine existing competition and prices in order to 
lend insight into the intended use of a new biodegradable resin which has 
been developed by Uthane Research Ltd., for proposed use in a variety of 
appl ications. 

The initial research efforts concluded that the topic of waste management 
being such a controversial issue required a more detailed overview in 
dealing with the many different groups having diverging opinions on what 
constitutes important criteria for a "biodegradable" product. This report 
has been written so as to ensure that the proposed product applications of 
Uthane Research Ltd., are compatible with opportunities for waste reduction, 
reuse, recycling and recovery. 



- 1 



- 1 - 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION 

Present Waste Situation 

What to do with our garbage? This simple statement has become one of the 
most talked about and controversial issues of today. Canada, the United 
States and many parts of the world are faced with crisis situations of solid 
waste di sposal . 

Canada itself is comprised of 10 million square kilometres and supports a 
population of 25 million people. Most of this population lives within 160 
kilometres of the American border in a strip that stretches across six time 
zones from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The average Canadian generates one 
tonne of garbage per capita per year which equates to 25 million tonnes per 
year of residential garbage in Canada. ;[ Residential contributes one third 
of the garbage while it is believed that industry and business is 
responsible for the remaining two thirds of the garbage. Until recently, 
there has been little or no regard to what has been thrown away nor in what 
quantities. Waste management is clearly emerging as the major challenge 
facing the municipal government in Canada. 

Because of today's urban lifestyles, both men and women are out in the 
workforce. In order to support this lifestyle both speed and convenience 
have become essential, resulting in a "throw away" society. Unfortunately, 
the volumes of waste are mounting out of proportion to the space available 
to place all of the refuse. Canadian cities in the past have relied on 
landfill sites to dispose of 90% of the waste generated. 2 The critical 
situation of the landfill sites in Canadian towns and cities is evident by 
the following survey results. In Vancouver a great percentage of waste is 
already transported over 200 kilometres away to Cache Creek. In Edmonton 
the landfill site which receives 75% of the garbage will be full by 1990 and 
in Regina the only landfill site will last until 1990. In Windsor and the 
county of Essex the three landfill sites are already nearly at capacity. By 
1993 Montreal will lose 90% of its waste disposal capacity, while the only 
landfill site in Halifax will be exhausted in 1994.3 



2 - 



Waste disposal affects all the major urban centres in Canada, but it is most 
severe in Toronto. Metro Toronto and its surrounding municipalities of 
Durham, Halton, Peel and York generate 3.7 million tonnes of garbage per 
year./; Today Toronto has two existing landfill sites: one in Durham 
Region, the Brock West Landfill in the Town of Pickering and the other in 
York Region, the Keele Valley Landfill in the Town of Vaughan. Presently 
two thirds of Metro's existing garbage is sent to Keele Valley while the 
remaining one third is sent to Brock West. 5 By 1990 Toronto will lose 33% 
of its disposal capacity with the closure of Brock West. Keele Valley is 
expected to follow suit and be at full capacity by 1993. 5 This leaves less 
than five years to not only address this critical situation, but also to 
collect detailed data, formulate specific plans and enact those plans. 

W hat is in the Municipal Waste Stream? 

As a result of the conglomerate of mixed garbage taken to the landfill 
sites, there tends to be discrepancies in the data available. As well, most 
of the information dates back ten years. The Ministry of Environment has 
drafted proposals to undertake a Canadian composition study, however, 
because of the nature and scope of the project, it is not expected to 
receive approval before April 1989 and the estimated completion date is 
fifteen months from date of approval. 7 

There is little information available on the actual composition of 
commercial and industrial waste. For the purposes of this report the most 
up to date data relating to the composition of solid waste has been obtained 
from information compiled in 1988 by the Ministry of Environment. 



- 3 - 



Composition of Ontario Municipal Solid Waste 
(Residential and Commercl al /Industrial ) 



Percentage (%) by weight Metric Tonnes 



22% 


2,200,000 


20.5% 


2,060,000 


14.4% 


1,440,000 


15% 


1,500,000 


5% 


500,000 


3% 


300,000 


4% 


400,000 


5% 


500,000 


5.2% 


520,000 


0.5% 


50,000 


0.7% 


70,000 


4.6% 


450,000 


100% 


10,000,000 8 



Food Wastes 

Other Paper 

Newspaper 

Yard Wastes 

Plastic/Rubber Leather 

Wood 

CI otn à Mi seel laneous 

Glass 

Cars 

Ferrous Metal 

Non-Ferrous Metal 

Mi seel laneous 



The Ministry of Environment staff estimate that 10,000,000 tonnes of 
municipal solid waste from residential and commercl al /i ndustri al sources was 
disposed of In 1988. 
C 

/^ited as today's major waste problems are cardboard, newspapers, bottles, 
cans and tires. g Newspapers, constituting up to 10% of landfills, are still 
Intact after 10 years of landfill burial. ^q 

Although the plastic industry has been the target of much discussion and 
pressure, plastics, in fact, account for only 5 - 7.2% (depending on the 
source) of the total waste stream. ;[i However, there continues to be great 
debate about the future and long term objectives of the plastics Industry 
because of the high visibility which plastics play In our lives. This whole 
issue will be addressed further along in the report under the heading of 
biodégradables. 



4 - 



WASTE MANAGEMENT ALTERNATIVES 

As previously discussed, our existing landfill sites in Canada are quickly 
coming to the end of their life cycles. Specifically in Toronto with the 
impending closure of Keele Valley in 1993. What are the waste management 
alternat! ves? 

1. To locate new landfill sites. 



2. Four R ' s - Reduction 
Re-Use 
Recycl i ng 
Materials Recovery 



3. Composting 

4. Refuse derived fuel 



5. Incineration - with energy recovery 

- without energy recovery 



6. Exporting 

1. New Landfill Sites 

There dre a number of drawbacks associated with new sites. 

a) Large tracts of land are required. In the past these have been located 
close to urban centres in order to keep transportation costs down. As 
the public awareness increases, the opposition to having "garbage dumps' 
in people's backyards has grown fiercely. 

b) Landfill sites require constant care and monitoring to prevent the 
potential hazard of the leaking of leachates into local water supplies. 

The municipalités in Ontario are actively seeking out new landfill sites, 
however, as yet nothing has been approved. 



- 5 - 

2. "he Four R's 

The î^our R's of solid waste management are recognized worldwide. 

Reduction Keeping materials out of the waste stream by changing packaging, 
substituting reusable items in place of disposable ones and 
developing products that are more durable. 

Reus e Involves the direct reuse of materials which have already served 
their primary purpose. For example: soft drink bottles being 
kept and used to store other liquids or reusing empty margarine 
containers for food or other items for storage. 

Recycl ing The collection of specific waste materials for use in tne 
manufacture of new products. 

There are presently two companies in Ontario which are involved 
with recycling: Consolidated Fibres, a private company in 
Toronto with its own recycling plant and Durham Recycling Centre 
which is a non-profit organization in Whitby. 

The most common materials collected through municipal recycling 
programs include newspapers, glass, tin, food containers and 
aluminum beverage containers. Drywal 1 , wood, tires and clear 
non-waxed corrugated are all proposed recyclable items. Each 
tonne of waste paper separated from municipal solid waste for 
recycling saves over three cubic yards of landfill space. ]^2 "^^^ 
present price for newspaper for recycling purposes is S50 per 
metric tonne. 13 Presently the two largest sources of wastepaper 
collection for recycling are corrugated boxes and old 
newspapers .14 It is believed that recycling could potentially 
reduce the waste stream by 10 - 30%. ^5 



6 - 



Recovery The separation and retrieval of usable materials and/or 
production of energy from mixed solid waste after it is 
collected. The most commonly recovered materials include: 
ferrous metals, aluminum, plastics, newspaper and corrugated 
cardboard and glass. 

3. Composting 

Composting is a process that converts organic waste into a material that can 
be used as a soil conditioner and low strength fertilizer. Composting would 
make use of residential kitchen and yard waste as well as commercial wastes 
from restaurants. Sewage sludge from sewage treatment plants can also be 
composted. It is estimated that in some a'"eas as much as 35% of residential 
waste could oe composted. 

4. Refuse Den ved Fuel 



Refuse derived fuel is the production of a usable fuel from mixed solid 
waste which has been separated. This fuel is then used at waste 
incinerators or sold to industries as a supplementary fuel. The problem 
with refuse derived fuel is that its production requires high capital and 
operating costs. There is also the problem of disposing of residues and ash 
after the fuel is burned. 

5. Incineration 

There is little debate that if incineration is going to occur then 
incineration with energy recovery makes the most sense. There is, however, 
much debate on whether or not incineration should be a part of waste 
management. Municipal energy from waste is common in the U.S.A., Europe and 
Japan ranging from 35 - 70% of waste burned in incinerators. 15 Canada has 
only burned as much as 4% and in August 1988 the only operating municipal 
incinerator in Metropolitan Toronto (Commissioner's Street Incinerator) was 
closed. 17 Incineration, on one hand, is very appealing as it can decrease 



the volume of waste to be landfilled by as much as 90 - 95%. is 
Unfortunately, garbage incineration has been reported to be the largest 
single source of dioxins into the Canadian environment. The present 
state-of-the-art incinerators have technology which consists of a lime 
scrubber and a bag house of fabric filters. This equipment produces flyash 
and residues with high concentrations of heavy metals and dioxins scavenged 
from flue gas. Although the scrubbers within the air pollution control 
systems may reduce emission of the contaminants into the air, there is still 
a disposal problem of highly toxic residue which has been produced. The 
question now is where to dispose of the toxic ash. There are presently 
proposals to retrofit and build in and around Toronto sixteen incineration 
plants. If built, these plants would be capable of incinerating an 
estimated 5,000 tonnes of garbage per day.^g On the negative side, this 
also means an additional load of up to 15 kg of dioxins and furans each 
year. 20 

6. Exporting 

Exporting means shipping wastes to new and/or existing solid waste 
management facilities outside of the jurisdiction of the area in which waste 
is generated. This, however, would generate higher haulage and tipping 
costs. There are municipalities in Canada which already export their 
wastes . 

As we have discussed, there are a number of options available for waste 
management. Each alternative has its own advantages and disadvantages, but 
clearly no single option solves the total waste disposal problem. 

Private and public sectors, industrial/commercial and environmentalists 
groups strongly advocate the reduction of wastes as the number one goal to 
meet not only the immediate waste crisis, but also to include reduction in 
all short and long term plans for waste management. Also strongly advocated 
by most groups is recycling whenever feasible. 



Ontario presently gives priority to measures that will reduce the amount of 
material in the waste stream and second priority to the reuse/recycling of 

materials versus burning or burying materials. 

The provincial government advocates that municipal dependency on landfilling 
be reduced and that reduction, reuse, recycling and recovery play 
(signif icent roles on all solid waste management mixes. 

The Ministry of Energy has put up $25 million over five years to support 
Energy From Waste (E.F.W.) projects in Ontario. 21 



As alluded to earlier in this report, during the many discussions and media 

coverage as a result of the garbage crisis, the plastics industry has become 

a prime target for criticisn. Tm s leads us to the attitudes and response 
of industry to the whole issue of waste disposal. 



- 9 - 



ATTITUDES OF COMMERCIAL/INDUSTRIAL SECTORS 

In Canada, it is believed that tv/o thirds of the total municipal waste 
stream is from the commerci al /industrial sectors and from this belief alone 
the commercial sectors have had to address the problems. 22 "^^^ business 
sectors in many cases have substantial dollars to lose should their markets 
be changed or interfered with because of government legislation or rulings. 
One of the main issues which has surfaced affecting many businesses is the 
very controversial subject of biodegradabi 1 ity. The subject alone has 
brought forth many opposing views and has made a number of industries do 
some in-depth research into the biodegradable question to ensure their 
markets can be protected, but at the same time meet necessary acceptable 
criteria required for future waste disposal methods as well as satisfy 
consumer and environmental demands. 

The Medical Industry 

At this time there is no organized force for change. There is tremendous 
concern in the U.S.A. as they are already moving to implement legislation to 
ban disposable infant and adult diapers because of the non-degradable 
polyethylene oacking. This is hitting a market of over 10 billion diapers 
and in excess of $640 million to U.S. industries. In Canada, although a 
great deal of time is being invested into biodegradabi 1 ity by the medical 
industry and the polyethylene manufacturers, tnere is not a unanimous 
feeling that the answer is a biodegradable plastic. The industry must also 
deal with the non-woven cover stock and the opaque packaging, neither of 
which is biodegradable. Many are of the mind that, in fact .incineration may 
be the answer. 23 

The medical industry has also noted that the acute care/long term care and 
chronic care facilities that purchase adult incontinent diapers for the 
end-user are reassessing the issue of reusable (cloth) versus disposable 
diapers oecause of the waste problem and increased tipping fees for waste 
removal by the waste management companies. 24 An example of drastic 



10 



increases inplenented by Metro Toronto indicates the seriousness of forcing 
business and industry to reduce garbage. Metro Toronto tipping fees: 

1987 = $18/tonne 

1988 = $50/tonne 

1989 = S85/tonne.25 

The medical industry in Canada has at stake over 250 million adult and 
infant diapers and a market worth over $100 million. 25 Infant diapers alone 
generate 57,000 tonnes into the Canadian municipal waste stream. 27 

Plastic Industry 

The entire industry is fully aware of the burden placed upon it to support 
and offer solutions that contribute to helping solve the problems of solid 
waste disposal in Canada. 

Plastic is continually singled out as a major problem but, depending on the 
study, all plastic products actually contribute between 5 - 7.2% to the 
waste stream. 

Virtually the entire plastics industry, from the resin manufacturers to the 
manufacturers of the end products, are investigating the feasibility of 
biodegradable plastic and researching for acceptable resins. The plastics 
industry today is wrestling with the question of biodegradable - YES or NO. 
Is it the answer? 



- 11 



BIODEGRADABLE - IS I" THE ANSWER? 

Thermoplastics, single-chain polymers, soften when heated and can be 
reheated and reshaped several times. It's the thermoplastics that account 
for approximately 80% of all the plastics produced. 28 '^^^ f"OSt widely used 
thermoplastics are as follows: 

Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) 64% 

High Density Polyethylene (HOPE) 54% 

Polystyrene (PS) 11% 
Polypropylene (PP) 9% 

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) 5% 
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) 7% 29 

There are two ways in which plastics can be made to deteriorate. One method 
is through photodegradation where plastics require exposure to ultraviolet 
light for the breakdown process to occur. A second process is through 
biodégradation where it takes the action of microorganisms to degrade. 

What is presently available on the market to meet the needs of the 
biodegradable issue? There are a number of companies which have produced 
photodegradable/biodegradaole additive systems which are currently 
available. The biodegradable systems available for plastic presently 
involve either modified starch polymers or certain aliphatic polyester and 
copolyeste^s. The modified starch technology uses either silane treated 
starch for improved compatibility with polymers or starch modified with an 
ethylene/acrylic acid copolymer compati 1 izer, St. Lawrence Starch and 
Agri-Tech Industries, Gibson City, Illinois currently market modified starch 
polymers . 

A photodegradable resin is produced by Union Carbide, Dow Chemical and 
Dupont as well as Ecoplastics Ltd., Ampacet Corporation and Ideamasters 
Inc. Princeton Polymer Lab offers a patented photodegradable technology for 
license to manufacturers, but does not produce its own resin. 



12 



Anpacet Corporation 

Ampâcet Corporation in Mt . Vernon, New York, has produced a photodegradabl e 
additive system for polyethylene called Poly-Grade for over fifteen years. 
The degradation process in Poly-Grade is a "photo-initiated oxidation 
syster^". Degradation begins as a result of ultraviolet light but may 
continue in the absence of light as the intermediate products undergo 
thermal decomposition. The company claims that products made with 
Poly-Grade will begin to degrade after thirty days and are completely 
degraded after ninety days. It must be noted, however, that seasonal and 
geographic variations make it difficult to predict product performance. 

neoplastics Limited of Toronto 

A subsiduary of ECO Corporation in Toronto, Ontario, this company has 
developed a technology which imparts photodegradabil ity by altering the 
molecular structure of plastics with ketone-carbonyl groups. The product 
Ecolyte is a polymer resin which, when mixed with the polyethylene resin 
used in the manufacture of bags, renders the bags degradable. Ecolyte 
polymers contain a \/ery small number of special chemical groups that are 
light sensitive. When an Ecolyte polymer is exposed to ultra-violet light, 
the light sensitive group absorbs the light and starts a sequence of 
chemical reactions. Plastics containing Ecolyte that are photodegradabl e 
become biodegradable and ultimately disappear. According to the company, 
the only biproducts are water and carbon dioxide. 

The company received its first order in September 1987 from Safeway Canada 
Ltd. in Vancouver of approximately $45,000 for Ecolyte photobiodegradable 
bags. This was their first commercial use of Ecolyte bags in North America. 

Also in 1987, Ecoplastics signed its first license with Sunbags 
International Ltd. of Vancouver and received its first photobiodegradable 
Ecolyte Masterbatch polyethylene. This is a concentrated plastic that, when 
mixed with regular polyethylene, will produce photobiodegradable 



13 



polyethylene finished goods. The licensing agreement provides for a 20% 
royalty fee on all sales of Ecolyte Masterbatch. Ecolyte continues to be 
sold in western Canada and Italy for degradable grocery bags. 

In February 1988, it was announced that Eco Corporation of Toronto, through 
its U.S. subsiduary Eco Corporation U.S.A., and the Plastics Division of 
Polysar Inc. of Leominster, Massachusetts, have formed a joint venture to 
develop worldwide markets for a broad range of degradable plastics using 
Ecolyte technology. The joint venture, Ecosar Enterprises, will be 
headquartered at Polysar's Plastics Division in Leominster. Initial plans 
are to produce and sell Ecolyte degradable polystyrene to be used for fast 
food containers such as beverage cups and hamburger containers. 

Ideamasters Inc. 



Ideaiiiasters Inc. in Miami, Florida has developed a photodegradable resin 
called Plasti-gone which also degrades through a photo-initiated oxidation 
system. Plastic containing this resin will begin to degrade in sunlight and 
continue to degrade in the dark and when buried in the soil. The product 
was originally developed in Israel in response to a requirement for 
biodegradable mulch film. Ideamasters is waiting for approval from F.D.A. 
within the next two years for the use of Plasti-gone in food packaging and 
skin contact products such as diapers. 

ICI Americas 



ICI Americas has developed a polyester copolymer that is itself susceptible 
to the enzyme action of microorganisms. For decades, scientists have known 
that certain soil bacteria produce a natural thermoplastic when fermented on 
sugars. Because the principle raw material is carbohydrates, not 
hydrocarbons, ICI «began research on extracting and purifying this natural 
polyester. Using a naturally occurring bacteria called Alcaligenes 
eutrophus, ICI has come up with a biodegradable plastic called poly 
(3-hydroxybutyrate - 3 hydroxyval erate) or PHBV. According to the company 



14 



PHBV plastic is totally natural, conpletely biodegradable and can be 
processed using conventional technology. PHBV is currently being used in 
surgical applications, but has potential for packaging and personal hygiene 
appl ications . 

The present price/lb. is S15 but this is expected to drop to $l/lb. once a 
full scale plant operation is completed. This is planned through 
Marlborough Biopolymers Ltd. in England, a subsidiary of ICI Americas. 

St. Lawrence Starch 

St. Lawrence Starch, Mississauga, Ontario has available Ecostar Masterbatch 
which uses starch and an unsaturated ester such as corn oil. When an 
Ecostar product is buried the starch is attacked by microbes which leave a 
porous structure. The corn oil then reacts with the metal salts in the 
earth to create peroxides that further break down the polymer molecules. 

Physical Properties of Ecostar 



Description - Natural polymer, free flowing white powder 
Granule Size - 15 microns for maize starch 
5 microns for rice starch 
80 microns for potato starch 
Density (gm/cm3) - 1.28 
Thermal Stability - Stable to 230°C 
Moisture Content - Less than 1% 30 

The company claims that an Ecostar bag made with 6% starch would degrade 
conpletely within three to six years and that products containing Ecostar 
are normal in storage and break down only after disposal. At present, most 
Ecostar material has been exported to Italy, where legislation has been 
passed requiring that all carry-out shopping bags, garbage bags, and other 
packaging material be degradable or recyclable by 1991. 



15 - 



Guardian Poly Industries in Laval, Quebec is currently using the starch 
additive to produce and market a biodegradable garbage bag called 
"Bioguard". There has been no commercial application as yet in the U.S.A. 
St. Lawrence is waiting for sanction from the Canadian Department of Health 

and Welfare and the U.S. F.D.A. to use Ecostar in food packaging. 

U.S. Department of Agricu! ture/Agri -Tech Industries 

Agri-Tech Industries of Gibson City, Illinois has licensed a technology 
which combines corn starch with poly (ethyl ene-co-acryl i c acid) or E.A.A. (t 
synthetic nondegradable polymer). The company plans to make garbage can 
liners. Although no commercial scale production has begun, Agri-Tech is 
planning a pilot plant aided by a 5250,000 grant from the Illinois Corn 
Marketing Board. 



- 15 - 



SUMMARY OF AVAILABLE TECHNOLOGIES FOR DEGRADABLE PLASTICS 
Source Product Info Degradation Type Current/Potential Use 



Dow Chemical E/CO Photodegradable Currently used in 13 

Midland, MI resin ethylene/carbon states with 6-pack 

monoxide laws. Dow and DuPont 

DuPont have applied for FDA 

Wilmington, DE approval for food 



contact, 



Union Carbide 
Danbury, Ci 



Ampacet Poly-Grade Photodegradable Used in Good Sense 

Mt . Vernon, NY Masterbatch additive system bags, and mulch film, 



Ecoplastics, Ecolyte Photodegradable Used in mulch film 

Willowdale, Ont. Masterbatch ketone polymer grocery bags in 

Italy, Canada, and 
1 imi ted areas of U.S. 
Al so used for PS and 
potential ly PET. 

Ideamasters, Plasti-gone Photodegradable Used in Israel and 

Miami, FL proprietary additive system U.S. for mulch film. 

resin Wider use expected. 

Princeton Additive Photodegradable No current commercial 

Polymer Labs system for additive system use. Suited for use 

Princeton, NJ licensing in Polyolefins and 

PS. 

ICI Americas, PHBV resin Biodegradable Production of bottle 
Wilmington, DE polyester in Europe planned for 

copolymer late 1987. 



St. Lawrence Ecostar Biodegradable Used in trash bags 

Starch, masterbatch starch additive and bottles. No 

Mississauga, current U.S. use. 
Ontario 

U.S. Dept. of Technology Biodegradable Agri-Tech Industries, 

Agriculture/ available starch additive Gibson City, IL plans 

Agri-Tech for licensing pilot plant for film. 

Source: Wrapped in Plastics, The Environmental Case for 

Reducing Plastics Packaging, Jeanne Wirta, August 1988. 



- 17 - 



PLASTICS ISSUE 

Half of the waste we dispose of is packaging. Good data in Canada is 
unavailable, however, U.S. and Canadian consumer markets are felt to be 
similar so whenever feasible U.S. data will be used. Over 50 million tonnes 
of packaging material is produced annually in U.S.A. More than 35% of 
residential garbage is packaging materials. 31 

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has requested that the Federal 
government study the reduction of packaging. Plastics stand to lose many of 
their markets to competing materials such as paper, glass and metal unless 
some mechanism is available for plastics to be recycled or degraded. 

The plastics industry in the U.S. estimates consumption of plastic resins 
will grow from 48 billion pounds per year in 1985 to 76 billion pounds by 
the year 2000. This represents a 36% increase. 33 

Environment Canada has begun to advocate the use of degradable plastics. 

The Society of Plastics Industry (SPI) is prepared to participate in a joint 
study with the Ministry of the Environment to determine: 

- the effective degradabi 1 i ty of each degradable plastic product; 

- by products of degradation; 

- standards for photo- and biodegradable products; 

- a list of suggested products that may be suitable applications for 
photo- and biodegradable plastics but for which recycling may not be 
feasible. 

In spite of the reluctance of the plastics industry, degradable plastics are 
being legislated into existence in both Western Europe and North America. 



- 18 



In Italy, by 1991, all plastics used in nondurable goods are to be 
degrâdable.33 In the U.S. to date 12 states have barred or proposed bans on 
nondegradable plastic products ranging from egg cartons, tampon applicators 
and diapers. On the federal level, ten degradable plastic bills and a 
concurrent resolution are pending before congress. 

SAMPLE OF PROPOSED BANS AND RESTRICTIONS ON PLASTICS 



Description 

Bans non-degradable six-pack carriers. 

Passed. Bans sale of CFC-blown polystyrene 
containers . 

Passed. Prohibits the distribution and sale 
of the plastic can in the state. 

Would ban non-degradable feminine 
hygiene products (tampons). 

1988 New York City Would prohibit restaurants from using 

Ordinance 932 disposable service items for on-site. 

1985 Oregon Would ban sale of non-biodegradable 

2804 disposable diapers. 

1985 Oregon Would prohibit grocery stores from using 

AB 803 or providing plastic bags. 

1988 Suffolk County Passed. Bans sale of certain non-degradable 

New York food packaging, plastic grocery bags, certain 

IR 1869-87 PVC and PS packaging and utensils. 

1987 Vermont Early version of bill would have banned 

H 196 the use of PVC as a packaging material. 

1987 West Virginia Would tax restaurants 5% of the wholesale 

value of non-biodegradable and non-recyclable 
plastics used. 

Source: Solid Waste Legislative Data Base. 



Year 


State/Bill 


1931 


Alaska 


1987 


Berkely, CA 
City ordinance 


1988 


Connecticut 
S 5885 


1987 


New Jersey 
S 1542 



- 19 



Ontario does not have formal policies related to degradable plastics. In 
June 1988, a resolution was introduced and passed in the legislature 
encouraging the Minister of the Environment to develop a plastics waste 
management policy as soon as possible. Resolution #34 received support from 
all parties but no tine table was set forth. 



Studies conducted by the Center for Environmental Management at Tufts 
University found that the life of a landfill can be extended by increasing 
the rate at which waste decomposes .34 



- 20 



■ACCEPTABILITY OF EXISTING TECHNOLOGIES AND THEIR END PRODUCTS 

There is a feeling that existing "biodégradables" available on the market 
are not doing what they are supposed to do. Existing biodégradables are 
poly/starch and an oxidizing agent. In an aerobic environment the starch 
will break down, however, in a landfill situation we are not dealing with 
aerobic conditions, but rather anaerobic. The anaerobic environment 
neutralizes the oxidizing agent and the starch is leached out. 

The photodegradable product is designed to deal with litter problems, but 
what you end up with is small pieces of plastic. These small pieces are not 
perceived to be of any advantage over the original product. 

If P.V.C., "acrylic" plastics were to become biodegradable, there would be 
much concern over the possibility of toxic substances being released. 35 

The techniques demonstrated to date rendering plastics biodegradable through 
the use of additives has very little support data on the actual process of 
biodisintegration. 

First Brands (Canada) Corporation, the makers of Glad Products, has 
developed their own guidelines on which to base a degradable plastic. The 
following three statements outline their criteria: 

1) A technology that will maintain functionality and performance standards. 

2) A technology that supports the second-use or recycling of plastic, 
contributing to the ultimate goal of reduction in the waste stream. 

3) A technology that will degrade plastic in the uncontrolled conditions of 
the waste disposal process and effectively extend landfill life without 
creating other environmental problems. 



21 - 



The cornstarch technology in its current form has been evaluated on the above 
three criteria and was found not to meet any one of the criteria. Although 
claims have been made that the products of starch biodégradation wonOi be 
carbon dioxide and water, there is little published data '■.o support this. 35 

Specific users of degradable plastic bags include Natures Choice, Bio Guard, 
Safeway, the Body Shop and the LCBO. 

Limitations of Photodegradation 

The use of photodegradable plastics is restricted to applications where the 
product will be exposed to adequate sunlight to promote decay process. 

Limitations of Biodégradation 

Biodégradation is not a fast process and is dependent on many external 
factors to complete the process including the composition, moisture and 
temperature of the soil. 

A packaging material which is capable of supporting the growth of bacteria 
must be handled cautiously if used in packaging of foods having long shelf 
lives. Improper storage could lead to food contamination. 

Attitudes Towards Degradation 

Degradation has not been proven technically or economically. From the 
National Research Council, the opinion is that it is fortunate that commodity 
plastics dre not biodegradable because this ensures that no products of 
microbial degradation can ever arise to contaminate water supplies, lead to 
landfill site instability or generate explosive gases. 37 

Biodégradation in landfill yields methane gas which is explosive and 
flammable. Packed tightly in landfill where little air penetrates the 
anerobic decomposition process takes over. Leachates must be contained or 
ground water pollution can occur. 



22 - 



It is felt that many plastic manufacturers are anxious for the opportunity 
to stamp the word degradable on their products to capitalize on public 
interest as well as relieve pressure on plastics packaging materials. This 
interim step also buys them time before other options such as recycling and 
waste to energy programs can be implemented. 

Very little testing of degradable plastics has been done to support the 
development of standards and to resolve basic technical questions about the 
rate of degradation and the safety of the end products. 

While it is desi rable lo induce degradabi 1 ity after the product is 
discarded, it is unlikely that any mechanism other than incineration will be 
efficient. 

For each polymer a unique degradation chemistry will probably have to 'be 
devel oped. 

Will plastic dust or small articles be acceptable? 

The practical solution to the plastic solid-waste solution is to use 
degradable plastic materials. It is not practical to recycle plastic films 
and containers because there is no way that the recycled scrap can be 
separated into different types of plastic resins. 

Environmental groups and individual researchers have raised serious 
questions about the actual benefits of degradable plastics and their 
possible adverse impacts upon the environment and recycling programs. On 
the other hand, degradable plastics are being promoted by some environmental 
groups because of their volume reduction attributes in municipal landfills 
and for litter reduction. 



- 23 



Primary concerns of degradable plastics are: 



- harmful effects upon the environment; 

- an increased potential for littering; 

- adverse effects on plastics recycling programs 

- increased costs; 

- lack of direction regarding the best uses. 



- 24 - 



POTENTIAL MARKETS FOR DEGRADABLE POLYMERS 

Commodity Plastics such as - grocery bags 

- garbage bags 

- agricultural mulch film* 

- fast food packaging 

- plastic food v/rap 

- time-release fertilizers* 

- bags for use in municipal collection 
programs for composting organic waste* 

- disposable diapers 

- surgical sutures 

- six pack loop carriers for 
beverage containers 

* Potential markets which yield the least amount of opposition at this time. 

There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the potential markets for 
"degradable" plastics. 

Potential "Biodegradable" Markets 

Garbage Bags 

Canada - LDPE 49,876,376 kg. 

Ontario - LDPE 26,688,290 kg. 

These figures are available from Statistics Canada Survey Catalogue #47-007. 
1987, and represent the total amount of garbage bags by weight. 

In discussions with the Society of Plastics Industry Canada, data relating 
to units and dollar values are not available. 



Shopping Bags 



25 - 



Canada - LDPE 

HOPE 



36,559,147 kg, 
8,454,571 kg. 



Ontario - LDPE 
HOPE 



15,698,198 kg. 
3,974,513 kg. 



Data obtained from Statistics Canada Survey Catalogue #47-007, 1987 and 
represent the total amount of shopping bags by weight. 

The Society of Plastics Industry Canada actual units and dollar values are 
una va i 1 able. 

Agricultural Mulch Film 

This is polyethylene film used by farmers during the planting season. 

Present photodegradable mulch films save the farmer the time of having to 
remove the covering at the end of the planting season. 

Estimated usage is 10 million lbs. annually in Canada. 

In the U.S.A., agricultural mulch films consume 100 million pounds per year 
of polyethylene. The products must be tailored to different climates and 
soil conditions. 



Although there is little opposition to biodegradable mulch films, concern 
has been expressed about the effects of fine particles of degraded material 
bui 1 di ng up in the soi 1 . 



26 - 



Plastic Flower Pots 

Canada: 1984 - 21,800,372 dozen = 2.6 billion units 
1985 - 27,022,865 dozen = 3.2 billion units 

Source: Statistics Canada. 

In discussions with Allan Conant, Marketing Manager for Kord Products Ltd. 
(largest pot manufacturer in North America), he felt these figures were very 
high. He stated that at this time there is no sophisticated data available 
regarding plastic pots and estimated the sales of flower pots to the growers 
to be approximately $30 million in Canada and $15-20 million in Ontario. 

In terms of units, he felt one billion units would be a more accurate 
figure. The present cost to growers is $175/1000 units. 

This is a company that would be most interested in pursuing "biodegradable" 
fl ower pots. 

Disposable Diapers 

Disposable diapers are composed of nonwoven polypropylene, cellulose pulp 
and a polyethylene backing. 

Adult Institutional Market - the total market is worth $64 million in Canada 
for both cloth and disposable diapers. The disposable diaper market enjoys 
82% of the total market which equates to 150 million pads per year and 
$57 1/2 million annually. 33 

Infant Diapers - The unit and dollar market has been confidential, however, 
the following information has enabled a unit value to be estimated for 
Metropolitan Toronto. 

There are 53,000 children between the ages of 0-3 years old. 15% of these 
use cloth diapers equalling 7,950 children. 85% use disposable diapers 



27 - 



which equates to 45,050 children. It is estimated that, on average, each 
child utilizes 45 diapers per week which translates to 2.03 million diapers 
per week or 106 million diapers annually. 39 

Worldwide adult and infant disposable diapers have been estimated at 27 
billion, while in the Canada and U.S., figures have been published at 11 
billion diapers. 

Half mil polyethylene used in the diaper costs an average of $1.20 per 
pound. With the starch additive the price is increased by 10-15% which 
appears to be acceptable at SI. 32 - 1.38 per pound. 40 

Feminine Hygiene 

Plastic applictors in tampons. 

In discussions with Cheryl Hopkins, product Manager for Playtex, they are 
unable to give out statistical information regarding the number of sticks or 
the dollar market. She did, however, express a keen interest in a 
"biodegradable" plastic as opposed to a photodegradable. U.S. data 
indicates that in 1987 250 million pounds of HOPE was used for feminine 
hygiene insertion devices. 

It has proven to be difficult to obtain certain market information as the 
industries guard the statistics and in many cases they are kept 
confidential. Recent publications have outlined information regarding resin 
sales in U.S. and Canada. The information is much more detailed for the 
U.S. and so both sources of data will be used. 



U.S. Resin Sales 1988 



- 28 - 



HOPE 



Trash Dags 



102 mil 1 ion pounds 



LDPE Grocery bags 

Self service bags 
Agricultural 
Diaper backing 
Trash bags 



11 ion pounds 

I lion pounds 

II ion pounds 
1 lion pounds 

1250 mil 1 ion pounds 



84 


mi 


92 


mi 


172 


mi 


210 


mi 



Canadian Resin Statistics 1! 



Domestic Demand HOPE 
Film 



Total 502 million pounds 
42 mil lion pounds 



LDPE - Total 1086 million pounds 
Film 795 million pounds 41 

As noted, the report details more information for the U.S. markets and tends 
to be much broader for the Canadian market. A 10% value of the U.S. market 
will give a conservative look at the Canadian potentials. 

Other Markets 

Fil lers for Ferti 1 izer 



Filler is an inexpensive component used to fill up fertilizer bags. It is 
used primarily in retail lawn and garden fertilizers to make them come out 
at a certain analysis to ensure that the average person does not burn their 
lawn. On average, fillers comprise 20% of the fertilizer used. Fillers are 
rarely used in agricultural or farming fertilizer as the end user is more 
knowled gable. 

The biggest market for fillers is in Ontario, followed by the Maritimes and 
Quebec. It appears to be an Eastern phenomena and is rarely used in Western 
Canada. 



- 29 - 



Fillers - Ontario 55,000 tonnes 

- Quebec 16,528 tonnes 

- Maritimes 19,722 tonnes 42 

Fillers commonly use corn cob husks which range in price from $100 - 200 per 
tonne. 

Calcidic or dolimitic limestone, which is the most common filler, is about 
$25 per tonne. 43 

Fillers for Paints 

The amount of filler required in paint depends on the glossiness of the 
paint. Flat paint requires the highest concentration of an extender while 
the glossy paint requires lower concentrations of an extender (filler). 44 

Two commonly used fillers are calcium carbonate at 18 cents per pound and 
clay at 20 cents per pound. 45 

The following figures represent dollars and volume sales of paints sold to 
retailers for household and commercial use. These figures do not include 
automotive or industrial applications. They are representative of 80% of 
the total paint manufacturers who participated. 

Canada 127,204,108 litres $404,205,895 

Ontario 36,695,758 litres $106,169,216 45 



30 



SUMMARY 

The "biodegradable" issue has becone a topic of great controversy. We have 
opinions and input from industry, government, public sectors, and 
environmental groups. There are no concrete answers, but a great deal of 
concern has been raised regarding the benefit of biodégradables. There are 
a number of groups actively and aggressively campaigning against 
biodégradables, two being Pollution Probe and the Recycling Council of 
Ontario. 

The Plastic Industry is presently looking at large scale recycling as a 
means of dealing with the waste disposal problems. It is generally felt 
that biodégradables will interfere with recycling programs as they will 
contaminate and weaken untreated plastics. The Ministry of Environment 
jointly with the Society of the Plastics Industry of Canada (SPI) will 
undertake a study on the Impact of Biodégradables on Recycling and the 
Environment. Results are expected to begin emerging within six months and 
the final report within one year. 

Domtar has announced a major plastic recycling initiative with Dow Chemical 
to establish a major facility to recycle mixed plastics in either Ontario or 
the N.E. United States. The company has specifically indicated its concern 
over degradable plastics in the consumer waste stream. Recycling problems 
may adversely affect the end-markets for the recycled plastics Domtar will 
be producing i.e., industrial building products and industrial packaging. 
As a result, Domtar will refuse loads found to contain any degradable 
p 1 a s t i c . 4 7 

Many groups against biodégradables are hoping to see full scale bans and, at 
the very least, limited use of biodégradables. According to the Executive 
Director at the Recycling Council of Ontario, environmental groups and 
individuals who were pro biodégradables are gradually changing their 
attitudes. The biodegradable situation is changing daily which makes 
obtaining up-to-date information an ongoing problem. For example, the Metro 



31 



Works Department sent out a recommendation for biodegradable garbage bags, 
but the latest information states that they will no longer endorse the bags. 

At the v^riting of this report there are no standards for testing 
biodégradables. Any company introducing a new biodegradable at this time 
would probably be met with a mixture of interest and skepticism. A great 
deal of responsibility would be left to the developer to provide extensive 
test results including the following information: 

- Initiation and rate of degradation in a landfill situation; 

- Results of by-product after degradation and proof that there is no 
toxic residue; 

- Impact on recyclable plastics. 

There is also feedback that photodegredable/biodegradable products would 
lead to further litter problems as the public may perceive these treated 
products as disappearing on their own. Cost is also an issue. With the 
present use of added resins, the weight or gauge of the plastic must be 
increased as the additive weakens the plastic. It is generally felt that a 
10-15% increase would be accepted. 

Regardless of all the controversy, there is still a great deal of interest, 
research and time being spent on biodégradables. There appears to be 
specific market niches emerging where a biodegradable plastic could prove to 
be beneficial and, at the present, are not receiving opposition. One area 
is agricultural mulch and the other, time release fertilizers. 

Degradable plastics may have a role to play so long as they can be proven 
not to interfere with recycling programs nor to pose any harm to the 
envi ronment. 

There is a need fof^ more research as the existing biodégradables available 
are not meeting expectations' of what they are siippos-ed to do. 



32 - 



FOOTNOTES 

1. Profiting From Waste. Macleans - Business, January 23, 1989. 

2. Plastics and the Waste Crisis. Position Paper from First Brands 
Corporation (Canada). 

3. Survey conducted by Richard Gilbert in May 1988. 

4. Profiting From Waste. MacLeans - Business, January 23, 1989. 

5. Metro Works Refuse Disposal - telephone conversation. 

6. Telephone discussion with Julie Palmer - Metropolitan Works Department. 

7. Telephone discussion with Neil Ahlberg - Ministry of Environment. 

8. Ontario Ministry of the Environment Staff - A Recycling Strategy for 
Ontario, January 1989. 

9. Discussion with Mary Stuart - Metropolitan Works Department. 

10. Degradability, Plastics World, October 1988. 

11. Franklin Associates Ltd., 1985 study conducted for the Environmental 
Protection Agency (EPA). 

Office of Solid Waste and Energy response = 7.2%. 
Ministry of Environment = 5%. 

12. Paper Film and Foil Converter, Paper Recycling Efforts Continue at 
Record Pace, Robert A. Zuck, October 1988. 

13. Municipal Waste Recycling, Current Issue Paper #79, June 1988. 

14. Paper Film and Foil Converter, Paper Recycling Efforts Continue at 
Record Pace, October 1988. 

15. Discussion with John Hanson, Executive Director, Recycling Council of 
Ontario. 

16. Waste Management Options - Incineration, Sweap for Metropolitan Toronto 
and the Regional Municipalities of Durham and York. 

17. Waste Management Options - Incineration, Sweap for Metropolitan Toronto 
and the Regional Municipalities of Durham and York. 

18. The Burning Question - Energy from Waste, Current Issue, March/April 
1988. 

19. Overview of Municipal Solid Waste Management Issues in Ontario, Current 
Issue Paper #76. 



33 



20. Overview "of Municipal Solid Waste Management Issues in Ontario, Current 
Issue Paper #76. 

21. The Burning Question - Energy From Waste, Current Issue, March/April 
1988. 

22. Overview of Municipal Solid Waste Management Issues in Ontario, Current 
Issue Paper #76. 

23. Discussion with Cyndy Keyes , Product Manager, Hygiene Product Line, 
Sancel la Inc. 

24. Discussion with Cyndy Keyes, Product Manager, Hygiene Product, Line, 
Sancella Inc. 

25. Discussion with Julie Palmer, B.E.S., Assistant Project Fa-ci litator. 
Solid Waste Environmental Assessment Plan, Refuse Disposal Division, 
Metropolitan Works Department. 

25. Discussion with Mary Stuart, Metro Works Department and Cyndy Keyes, 
Product Manager, Sancella Inc. 

27. Discussion with Neil Ahlberg, Ministry of Environment. 

28. Wrapped in Plastics, Environmental Action Foundation Report, Jeanne 
Wirta, August 1988. 

29. Wrapped in Plastics, Environmental Action Foundation Report, Jeanne 
Wirta, August 1988. 

30. Three Companies Join Forces to Produce Biodegradable Waterproof 
Coverings, J.B. Giles, G.M. Chapman, A. Halliwell, Nonwovens World, 
July 1988. 

31. Estimate by Corporate Development Consultants, Ltd., C & EN, November 
1987. 

32. SPI on Year 2000 Packaging Will Star, Modern Plastics, August 1987. 

33. Pollution, Cost to Dictate Industry's Changes by 2000. Paper, Film and 
Foil Converter, July 1988. 

34. "Tufts University Researchers Look to Increase Efficiency of 
Landfills." Tufts University Office of Communications press release, 
July 5, 1988. 

35. Discussions with Colin Isaac, Executive Director of Pollution Probe. 

36. GLAD - Position Paper, Plastics and the Waste Crisis. 

37. Opinion of D.M. Wiles, Director of National Research Council Canada, 
Division of Chemistry. 



34 - 



38. Cyndy Keyes, Product Manager, Sancella Inc. 

39. Mary Stuart, Metro Works. 

40. G. Magistrale, Production Manager, Sancella Inc. 

41. Modern Plastics, Resin Report, 1989. A McGraw-Hill Publication, 
January 1989. 

42. Canadian Fertilizer Institution from the Regional Association Report. 

43. Chipman Division of C.I.L. 

44. C.I.L. Paints. 

45. Bapco - British American Paint Company, owned wholly by C.I.L. 

45. Canadian Paint Coatings Association, 

47. Report from RAC's Recycling Sub-Committee developed by the Long Range 
Planning Task Group with the Support of Recycling Development 
Corporation. 



35 - 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



Jeanne Wirta. Wrapped in Plastics, the Environmental Case for Reducing 
Plastics Packaging, Environmental Action Foundation. August 1988. 

K. Lewis Yeager. An Overview of Municipal Solid Waste Management Issues in 
Ontario. Legislative Research Service Issue Paper #76. June 1988. 

Franklin Associates Ltd. Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste in the 
United States, 1960 to 2000. July 1986. 

Resource Integration Systems Ltd. A Recycling Strategy for Ontario. 
Prepared for the Recycling Strategy Task Group of the Recycling Advisory 
Committee. January 1989. 

Diane de Coninck. A Policy Analysis of Fast Food Packaging. February 1988. 

Lewis Yeager. Degradable Plastics, Packaging and Waste Management. 
Legislative Research Service Issue Paper #80. June 1988. 

Jerry Richmond. Municipal Waste Recycling, Legislative Research Service 
Issue Paper #79. June 1988. 

Sweap. Metro Works Department, Solid Waste Environmental Assessment Plan. 

Toronto Recycling Action Committee. Pamphlet - Stop Before You Throw It 
Out - Waste Management Options. 

Commissioner of Works. Biodegradable Packaging Recommendations. September 
20, 1988. 

F.H. Edgecombe. The Society of the Plastics Industry of Canada (SPI 
Canada), Degradable Plastics - An Overview. November 1988. 

RAC's Recycling Sub-Committee/Long Range Planning Task Group/Recycling 
Development Corporation. 

Glad. Position Paper, Plastic and the Waste Crisis. December 1, 1988. 

Eco Corporation. Press Release, September 1987, February 1988, May 1988. 

Federation of Canadian Municipalities Communique. November 1988. 

Herbert L. Weiss/Converter Technology. Applied Technology Pollution, Cost 
to Dictate Industry's Changes by 2000. Paper, Film and Foil Converter. 
July 1988. 

Malcolm D. MacArthur. Legal Briefs, Anti-Plastics Legislation May Affect 
Landfill Policies. Paper, Film and Foil Converter. July 1988. 



36 



Dr. Jeffrey R. 'Ellis. Marketing Overview, Plastics Institute of America Inc. 

Doug Snock, Editor. Degradabi 1 i ty : It's getting out of hand. Plastics 
World. October 1988. 

Bob Martino. Tokens of Good Faith But Bad Sense. Modern Plastics. November 
1988. 

Colin Isaac. The Biodegradable Myth, Probe Post, Pollution Probe 
Foundation. Fall 1988. 

Robert A. Zuck. Paper Recycling Efforts Continue at Record Pace. Paper, 
Foil and Film Converter. October 1988. 

Resin Report 1989. Modern Plastics, Volume 66, Number One. January 1989.