discarded, or making chemical production process changes so that waste materials can become products.
There are several barriers to finding new uses for waste, or changing processes so that waste generated has some value to a customer elsewhere in the industrial system. First, the data available to begin assessing the potential for recovery of useful by-products from waste are scanty and of poor quality, and need improvement. Current data do, however, illustrate the potential of prospecting in waste streams for highly concentrated, high-value material. In some instances, materials occur at higher concentration in waste streams than in natural ores. Moreover, because the potential value of recoverable material in the waste stream increases with concentration, it is often feasible to design waste streams for reuse and recycling (Allen and Behmanesh, in this volume).
Second, the incentive to find resources in waste streams depends in part on there being a reliable market for the waste by-product. Materials that have a high economic value are highly conserved. The automobile industry has long recycled components, such as starters and alternators, that would otherwise be waste. This use of potential waste occurs because there is a market for what would otherwise be disposed of as waste. The role of markets in promoting recycling is highlighted by the fact that 75 percent, by weight, of a car is currently recycled (Klimisch, in this volume). This is not the result of any mandate to recycle automobiles, but rather occurs because there is a market for the recycled material and for refurbished components and parts. The auto recycling infrastructure is one among many environmentally sound recycling systems that exist today. Care should be taken to ensure that public policy initiatives to encourage resource recovery do not throw such existing systems of materials recovery and reuse into disarray. New policy initiatives should focus on stimulating markets for material currently being disposed of as waste.
Past experience with recycling in the United States may provide insights into current recycling programs. In the 1930s and 1940s there was an economically viable paper recycling industry that was not motivated by environmental concerns. An investigation into its decline might prove instructive. The experience of the 1980s, when old newspapers collected for recycling were warehoused for lack of a market for the used paper, shows the futility of programs organized solely for the sake of recycling, independent of demand. An apparent, gradual market adjustment in the 1990s may eliminate the need for warehousing newsprint, but if this adjustment is inadequate, consideration will have to be given to other possible changes in paper recycling.
Third, there are clearly information deficiencies that hinder the operation of markets for waste and recycled material. Frequently lacking, for example, is information identifying who has what (supply), who needs what (market), who could use what (potential market), or who could produce something if somebody else wanted it (potential supply). These data are not available, because companies are frequently secretive about the composition of their waste streams (for fear that