Plastics recycling in the US is at an all-time high, according to two reports released today at the 2016 Plastics Recycling Conference.
The 2014 National Postconsumer Non-Bottle Rigid Plastic Recycling Report found recycling of post-consumer rigid plastics surged 276 million pounds, or 27 percent, in 2014 to reach a record high of more than 1.28 billion pounds for the year. The report also indicated that the reported volume of recycled rigid plastics, which is tracked separately from bottles or film, is now four times greater than the volume reported in just 2007.
Meanwhile the 2014 National Postconsumer Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Report found a minimum of 1.17 billion pounds of postconsumer plastic film was recycled in 2014, an increase of over 29 million pounds, or 3 percent, from the prior year. This year’s study marks the 10th consecutive year of the report, and a 79 percent increase in plastic film recycling since 2005. Based on data from the EPA, the recycling rate for film has grown from 6.6 percent to 17 percent of production during the same period.
Moore Recycling Associates authored both reports, which were funded by the American Chemistry Council. The ACC attributes the increase in plastics recycling to the combination of more advanced sorting technologies coupled with expanded consumer access.
“We want our material to be recovered and given a new life,” says Keith Christman, managing director of plastics markets for the ACC. “We recognize the demand for recycled material is very strong — there’s more demand for recycled materials than stuff going into curbside bins.”
What Is the Future of Plastics?
The ACC report follows a report by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation that calls on all stakeholders across the global plastics value chain — including consumer goods companies, plastic packaging producers and plastics manufacturers, recyclers and others — to apply circular economy principles to plastic packaging to reduce harmful environmental effects such as leakage into oceans.
The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics says that while plastics and plastic packaging are an integral part of the global economy and deliver many benefits, their value chains entail drawbacks. The report finds that most plastic packaging is used only once; 95 percent of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80 billion to $120 billion annually, is lost to the economy.