Canadian Packaging

U.S. recycling of rigid plastics and film each jump by 10%

The 10% jump in 2016 numbers highlights a dramatic growth over the past decade, according to a pair of recycling reports issued at the annual Plastics Recycling Conference.


February 21, 2018
by Canadian Packaging staff

NASHVILLE, Tennessee—Two major categories of plastics recycling, non-bottle rigid plastics and plastic wraps, bags and flexible film packaging (collectively “film”), each jumped 10 percent in 2016, according to two recently released reports.

Rigids reached a minimum of 1.46 billion pounds and film climbed to 1.3 billion pounds collected for recycling.

The reports also demonstrated dramatic long-term growth in both plastics recycling categories.

The volume of rigid plastics collected for recycling in 2016 is nearly 4.5 times greater than the volume collected in the 2007 inaugural report.

Additionally, plastic film recycling has grown for 12 consecutive years and has more than doubled since 2005 when the first report was compiled.

The 2016 National Post-Consumer Non-Bottle Rigid Plastic Recycling Report and the 2016 National Post-Consumer Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Report were released at the annual Plastics Recycling Conference.

“We are pleased to see the increase in plastic film and rigid plastics recycling in 2016 and the dramatic growth over the last decade,” says American Chemistry Council (ACC) vice-president of its Plastic Division, Steve Russell. “America’s plastic makers are committed to supporting plastics recycling growth through improved infrastructure and education, and believe that these efforts will continue to support the industry in future years.”

Both reports attribute the increase in material collected for recycling partly to demand from export markets. As a result of China’s 2017 policy restricting imports of scrap materials, including plastics, the plastics recycling value chain is working to develop stronger domestic end markets to continue the increase in plastics recovered for recycling.

“From investments in recycling facilities and advanced technologies, to public commitments to use more recycled plastics in products and packaging, we see real dedication from the recyclers and end users to grow end-market opportunities for plastics recycling here in the U.S.,” notes Russell.

Currently, recycled plastic film is used in composite lumber, new film and sheet, agricultural products, crates, buckets, and pallets. Typical end markets for non-bottle rigids include automotive parts, crates, buckets, pipe, lawn and garden products, and thick-walled injection molded products.

Plastic film includes flexible product wraps, bags and commercial stretch film made primarily from polyethylene.

The rigid plastics category contains food containers, caps, lids, tubs, clamshells, cups and bulky items, such as buckets, carts and lawn furniture, along with used commercial scrap, such as crates, battery casings and drums.

As in prior years, high-density polyethylene and polypropylene comprised the two largest resins in this category representing 40 percent and 36 percent, respectively, of total rigid plastics collected.

Both the film and rigids reports were based on an annual survey of reclaimers conducted by More Recycling.

ACC’s Plastics Division tracks recycling collection annually in three categories: film, rigids, and bottles. Statistics on plastic bottle recycling were reported previously in the 2016 United States National Postconsumer Plastic Bottle Recycling Report (November 2017).
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people’s lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through Responsible Care; common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is a US$768 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation’s economy. It is among the largest exporters in the nation, accounting for fourteen percent of all U.S. goods exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation’s critical infrastructure. More on the ACC is available at www.americanchemistry.com.


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