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Mr. VALENTINE. Mr. Bavaro, can you tell us how long it took you to go from, you and your wife, to go from an idea to the first sale? Mr. BAVARO. I'd say it took about 6 months to actually go from coming across this technology, understanding where to successfully put it forward, and then to go ahead and market it. And, as I said, the thing that we needed to do was to go to a company, an organization like Disney, that had an environmental plan in place where they could appreciate it.
And actually, I would like to in my answer somewhat indirectly answer one of your original questions as well.
Mr. VALENTINE. Please.
Mr. BAVARO. I think it's flat out our responsibility to clean up this mess, and I think the government absolutely needs to stay into the game and to show leadership and direction as far as moving forward towards this.
Because I can assure you, with the added cost of creating a product like ours at least, most folks would rather buy something that's inexpensive, albeit it's good and it's green and it's ultimately going to be doing the right thing. Today, they look at what they can afford, what's in their pocket today.
Cleaning up the mess is our responsibility, because I would much rather today be talking about "what can we do" solutions as opposed to 20 years from now as to "must have" solutions.
Mr. VALENTINE. Well, is one of the problems costwise the fact that we don't have enough understanding of the necessity to participate in recycling to discard enough of these plastic bottles for you to have a supply? Is that one of the problems?
Mr. BAVARO. No. Actually, Americans are using about 21⁄2 million bottles apiece on a daily basis.
Mr. VALENTINE. So is the problem then a more expensive process to break those bottles down and to weave them into
Mr. BAVARO. Into garments.
Mr. VALENTINE [continuing]. Thread?
Mr. BAVARO. Yes, that is correct. It's all the steps that are involved in taking it and reclaiming it and breaking it down and ultimately spinning it into that fiber and then into the yarn and so on. Unfortunately, we are marketing it into the same marketplace that buys a canvas tote or a cotton T-shirt, and when they stop to take a look at the cost being x dollars or x percentage more costly, a large percentage of people, unfortunately, say that they would spend the extra dollars to go ahead and buy the environmentally correct product, but when it comes-push comes to shove they'll revert back and buy the lesser product, lesser cost.
Mr. VALENTINE. Well, do you think that that sort of thing is true generally? That green merchandise catalog that I receive, are those long-lasting light bulbs, is there an extra expense to manufacturing and marketing those light bulbs?
Mr. BAVARO. It's possible. I can't speak
Mr. VALENTINE. They are more expensive but they last a lot longer.
Mr. BAVARO. Exactly. I mean if you look at plastic shirts, for example, or a plastic bottle, because it's an inert by-product of petroleum it takes close to a hundred years before it begins to
Although I probably wouldn't tell the rest of the world this, but it might take quite some time before our shirt would be ready to be thrown into the recycling bin. But the fact of the matter is because it is a derivative of a petroleum-based product it, first of all, can be recycled and it will last that much longer. So the answer
Mr. VALENTINE. So anybody who is in the market for a new Tshirt are you telling us to purchase your product would have to want to make a little extra contribution to cleaning up trash dumps?
Mr. BAVARO. That's correct. Especially when you stop to consider the problem that it's currently becoming today, and as we add more and more legislation that's passed where we'll have to close down landfills, it's a problem that, you know-unfortunately, if we don't do something to address the problem today it is going to grow into a monster tomorrow.
Mr. VALENTINE. Mr. Rohrabacher?
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll just go on where you left off with Mr.-is it Bavaro?
Mr. BAVARO. Yes, it is.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. How much does this T-shirt cost? How much does it retail?
Mr. BAVARO. We sell the shirt without the screen printing for about $4.50. That image that you see-with the image on there, you're looking at about $6.50, $7.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. That's retail?
Mr. BAVARO. That is correct. Well, now that's us selling to someone like a Disney, for example, who would
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Who would then turn around and sell it for $7 or $8.
Mr. BAVARO. No. Actually, they would turn around and probably sell it like you see in most of the shops, the Natural Wonder shops or Sharper Image, for $17, $20, whatever it may be.
But bear in mind that's a cotton shirt.
Mr. VALENTINE. What about in the airport?
Mr. BAVARO. $25. [Laughter.]
Ms. ESHOO. The point is is it competitive?
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Yes. The point is this is not competitive.
Mr. BAVARO. It's about 25 percent higher in cost.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Um hum.
Mr. BAVARO. That is the point. And I guess that's part of the reason why I said
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Unless, of course, included in the selling, the merchandising of this product is a consumer green consciousness that would make them more willing to buy products that say "green product?"
Mr. BAVARO. In fact, you have hit the nail directly on the head. You absolutely must sell education. And, frankly, the T-shirt is just a by-product of the education that we are distributing.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. So the green-so when we're talking about environmental consciousness that it actually, that's what will make this rather than looking for a subsidy, what we're really-would be more effective to look for a building of a consciousness among
the American people that we want to buy things that help recycle these sort of things. Right?
Mr. BAVARO. Absolutely correct. And I wish my voice was as loud as the Federal Government's because I would be screaming from the rooftops.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Okay. Because now let me ask you about recycled-now this comes from recycled coke bottles and plastic containers. Right?
Mr. BAVARO. Absolutely correct. Coke bottles
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Okay. Now, are there any other uses right now you say this is not competitive. But are there any other uses of those recycled containers that are competitive with-you know, that they are going to use up these containers rather than using them for T-shirts?
Mr. BAVARO. Okay. Good question. When you stop to consider there are six different classifications for plastic as far as recycling, starting out with number one being, Pat, what you have in your hand, which is polyethylene teraphylate, that is the only classification that can be broken down into a fine denier, or the feel, you can feel the hand of the the garment itself, that's it. That's all you can break down.
The other ones, what you will find, the other classifications are high density, HDPE, lower density all the way through styrofoam being on the opposite end of the spectrum. Almost without exception, they cost more. For example, you can use milk jugs, containers. I know that the Navy is undertaking a program where they have created park benches. So you can use them into other areas, but they cost more. They truly just cost more.
The research involved in it, first of all, and then actually going in in the long run and producing and manufacturing the product, the cost is just higher.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. And, however, if there was a nonsubsidizedsome people argue that we subsidize landfills, or we subsidize people's disposal of things, which if that cost was added in, some people believe that it wouldn't necessarily-the cost differential might come down. But that's an argument that hasn't been really penciled out yet, which leads me to Mr. Howard, and we're talking about landfills. You mentioned about landfills and about utilization of products for fuel, some of the by-products for fuel.
There is someone, again in my area, who I-and I guess that's what Congress is all about, we come here from all parts of the country. But they're starting a new process that actually turns paper products in landfills into building materials. Not fuel but building materials that—and do you know anything about this new process? It makes some sort of hard material. Is that
Mr. HOWARD. No, sir. I am sorry. I am not aware of that field. Mr. ROHRABACHER. Okay.
Mr. HOWARD. I would comment a little further on this pelletized paper.
We are working with-Ashley County, in Crossett, Arkansas, to further develop this pelletized paper as fuel, and it turns out it has the same Btu value as coal, so it's a very economical fuel to use. Mr. ROHRABACHER. Is it cost competitive with the alternatives?
Mr. HOWARD. It is very cost competitive. In fact, we set the initial price we would be willing to pay the developer, we set a price slightly under the cost of either natural gas or coal delivered to the mill, and he's willing to take that. And we've looked at his numbers and there is room for him to make a profit at that level.
And it does some of the things you were suggesting, though. It does save landfill space. It saves him the cost of future development of landfills and so forth, which I think you have to apply to that kind of cost analysis.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Chairman, I might add that the folks out in my area who are using the paper from the landfill do believe that they are going to be building building material. They are going to take all they say they can take all the paper they can get and building material that will sell and be commercially competitive with anything else, and they'll make a profit in clearing out all the landfills of paper. So this is very exciting.
However, getting it kicked off, which is what your legislation is all about, is trying to find a way of-we have got the technology, making sure it can be put to use. Sometimes there's little hurdles these people have to go over in order to get to the goal.
Now, one last area that I wanted to mention, if I can remember exactly what it was. Oh, yes.
When we're talking about government standards, and this leads in from the question we were talking about earlier in terms of an environmentally conscious consumer, that having an environmentally conscious consumer changes the profit-loss situation and actually changes the equation of pollution in our country, because we have now made it profitable to do things that are environmentally sound.
Right now we don't have a definition of what biodegradable means, for example. Some of the products that claim to be biodegradable are totally different than other products, and they have totally, you know, some people claim that this isn't biodegradable at all, but there's been no standards set.
Is that right? There's no Federal saying of what is biodegradable? So would that in terms of-whoever on the panel would like to discuss it. Would that be a help if the Federal Government said you cannot claim on your product that it's biodegradable unless it does this, this and this. Thus environmentally conscious people could then make a determination they were going to buy the biodegradable product?
Mr. CASCIO. That's the purpose of the ISO standards activities at this point, and the advantage of doing it in an international setting is that you set those definitions for the whole world. Because we found that when you look at national labeling programs, like the Blue Angle program in Germany or the Green Seal program and so on around the world, that there are certain biases built into those programs, and there are certain assumptions that they use, and certain efficiencies in the life-cycle assessment methodologies and so on that lead to serious problems.
And that's what the ISO process that we're involved in right now at an international level is going to correct. Because we will come up with internationally accepted standards to do life-cycle analyses, life-cycle assessments, to do labeling. The terminology and the sym
bology that's used for labeling programs, we are trying to internationalize that and standardize it. And until you have those definitions in place, you're going to run into serious problems.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Now this is different, I might add, than mandating that these companies reach a certain standard. What you are just giving the public is a standard which to make their own decisions by. Then the companies can then determine what they want to do, realizing that the public, you know, might demand a biodegradable product.
So, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your leadership on this issue.
Mr. VALENTINE. Thank the gentleman.
The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Geren?
Mr. GEREN. I have no questions.
Mr. VALENTINE. The lady from Maryland, Mrs. Morella.
Mrs. MORELLA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate this hearing being held.
Certainly, as we know, there's a market, I think they estimate about $200 billion a year that is a potential market for environmentally friendly green technology. And recently, I understand, that the first ever directory to environmental technology products and services in Europe lists 20,000 companies in 20 European countries, and that was recently published, I think in London. And I think the United States has got to start to take part in that market and show the leadership that we do have.
As we talked about the recycling and the T-shirt, I am just wondering about whether or not if you were to produce any of these items in volume, would not volume reduce the cost to the point where it could be competitive?
I mean, if you can get people to-kids in school, which is where I think the future of the environment lies, if you can get them to purchase these, would it not-in volume-reduce it? Would you want to comment on that?
Mr. BAVARO. Yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt.
In fact, to a large extent, although it costs more now to produce the product, there's also a significant amount of research dollars and several years that went into creating this product in the first place. Without a doubt, the more volume will indeed drive the price down lower.
But for small entrepreneurial start-up companies with limited funds, without getting those additional funds, it's difficult to come up with larger volumes.
Mrs. MORELLA. No doubt about it, and I think one of the things we have wanted to do in Congress is to establish markets to-I think a lot of marketing for something like recycling is critically important.
And as somebody who represents the Gaithersburg National Institute of Standards and Technology, I would agree with what I heard about the need for establishing some standards that we can-that can be used internationally.
And closer to home, I represent Montgomery County, Maryland, and this jurisdiction opted to join the Environment Protection Agency's Green Lights Program. I wonder how many of you are