THE GOODS : ECONOTES : The Shirt You Wear May Have Been a Bottle

Tired of being called a petrochemical blight on the environment, the plastics industry is stressing its green points.

"We want to emphasize the environmental attributes of plastic," says Jimmy Hendricks, spokesman for the American Plastics Council, which has issued a new booklet, "Shop Recycled! A Consumer's Guide to Recycled Plastics" that lists brand names of dozens of products made with--or packaged in--recycled plastic.

"People are aware that motor-oil containers or detergent bottles can become recycled bottles," says Hendricks, "but often quite amazed that things like hiking boots and sleeping bags contain recycled plastic fibers."

The booklet is a spin-off from a more comprehensive "Recycled Plastics Products Sourcebook," with more than 1,000 listings of products and manufacturers. Updated regularly, it is used by government and industrial purchasing officers shopping for environmental products.

Both guides are free from APC (call (800) 2-HELP-90), which designed a promotional T-shirt made from recycled plastic bottles to dramatize its point.

Marc Merson, president of Eco-Expo, the country's largest show devoted to environmental products, agrees that the parade of recycled plastic products has picked up noticeable speed in recent years.

Not only are shirts, pants, sweaters and jackets showing up at Eco-Expo booths, he said, but also the filling that goes into a variety of clothing, such as down jackets, is increasingly being made from recycled plastics.

"We know about the unglamorous things like recycled bottles," he said. "But what's more exciting is that they are taking plastic, breaking it down into pellets of resin and re-spinning it into fiber. In fact, fashion is probably the single fastest-growing segment of our show."

Scratching Fleas: The summer war against fleas has a new and all-natural weapon: worms. Tiny worms called "beneficial nematodes," are now mass-marketed in a form you can spray on your lawn. Why spray the lawn with worms? Because the soil nematodes attack pre-adult fleas outside.

Usually a pet owner's yard works like an incubator for flea eggs, larvae and pupae, which make up 95% of the flea population. Once a pet ventures outside, the slightest vibration on the ground causes the new adult fleas to leap onto the pet and move indoors to reinfest the home.

Nematodes nip all that in the bud, says Chrystie Heimert of Veterinary Productors Laboratories in Phoenix. "Although scientists have known about beneficial nematodes since the 1930s, we've just learned how to grow and package them," she says. The two new products available are Interrupt, sold by veterinarians, and Bio Flea Halt! available at pet stores and feed shops nationwide. For information: (800) 234-2269.

Roundup: The city of Los Angeles' Hazmobile, continuing its summer rounds to collect residential hazardous waste, is parked in Sunland today and Saturday and will be July 14-16, then heads for Pacific Palisades for July 21-23 and July 28-30. Make an appointment by calling (800) 988-6942. . . . The organizations, firms and individuals tapped in June for Environmental Pride Awards by Los Angeles magazine are profiled in the current issue.

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