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The history of reclamation practices for plastics, textiles, and rubber is reviewed, with emphasis on more recent trends toward reduced levels of recovery. The causative factors are described—reduced selling prices for plastics (prior to 1974), technical problems arising from their very great variety of different materials (frequently incompatible), and the gradual disappearance of market systems for returning containers for consumer goods. A series of recommendations was developed to increase recovery. These include the creation of “return distribution” systems; provision for identifying—as by a simple code—the general compositions of polymeric materials to facilitate their separation where required; and the development of standards to identify reworkable combinations of plastics, textiles, and rubber recovered materials.
conservation, reclamation, materials recovery, natural resources
assistant technical director, Solid Waste Management, Manufacturing Chemists Association, Washington, D.C.,