Whether assessing recycling rates or allowable emissions from lead smelters, some numbers don’t add up

Aug 01, 2010 | 05:00 AM | Paul Schaffer

Scientific researchers, policy advocates and journalists all have to weigh the extent to which statistics reflect reality.

Case in point California recycling. Back in May, the state's recycling agency was "pleased to report that the overall (beverage container) recycling rate for calendar 2009 was 82 percent, an increase of 8 percentage points over the 74 percent recorded for calendar 2008." Then came the awkward element The ratio for high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic containers jumped to 109 percent from 91 percent in the same comparison.

"As a result, CalRecycle is investigating whether claims for No. 2 HDPE plastic containers are being filed and processed correctly. CalRecycle is also investigating the degree to which fraud against the recycling program has increased reported container returns of all material types."

So, has the program become increasingly effective, or increasingly vulnerable to scams against the container-deposit system, or some combination of both? AMM bypassed the story. But was that too cynical?....

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