Plastic bottle recycling achieves two decades of year-over-year increases
Recycling rate for plastic bottles reaches high of nearly 2.5 billion pounds

Plastic bottle recycling by consumers increased by 46 million pounds in 2009 (up 2 percent), to reach a record high of nearly 2.5 billion pounds for the year, according to figures released jointly by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR).

For a copy of the full report, click here.

The 20th annual National Post-Consumer Plastics Bottle Recycling Report also marks the 20th consecutive year that Americans have increased the pounds of plastic bottles that have been returned for recycling. The pounds of bottles collected for recycling has grown each year since the industry survey began in 1990. The recycling rate for plastic bottles rose nearly 1 percent to reach 28 percent in 2009.

“Two decades of increased collection year-over-year shows that Americans are committed to recycling,” said Scott Saunders, vice president and general manager of KW Plastics in Troy Alabama, and chairman of APR. “Valuable recycled plastic materials go on to become useful products, such as automotive parts, carpeting, fleece jackets, durable outdoor lumber, new bottles and containers. By recycling our used plastics, all of us can help support green jobs and green businesses,” Saunders said.

America’s plastics and recycling industries continue to invest in developing technologies and innovative programs to increase awareness of recycling opportunities among consumers and expand access to away-from-home recycling bins.

A recent step forward in the recycling of plastic bottles involves replacing the caps. “Recyclers now want consumers to place caps back on bottles prior to recycling, said Steve Alexander, executive director of APR.

“By twisting caps back on our bottles before placing them in the bin, we can help make sure this valuable material says out of the litter stream and gets into the hands of recyclers,” Alexander said.

APR, which represents more than 90 percent of the postconsumer plastics recycling capacity in North America, has initiated a series of recycling workshops and webinars for recycling officials to help increase the volume of plastics available for recycling. In addition, APR works closely with packaging and consumer product companies on design for recycling of new containers and works with industry to minimize contamination of the recycling stream.

ACC, which represents the makers of plastic resins, has partnered with the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the non-profit Keep California Beautiful to place nearly 700 recycling bins at 19 locations along the California coast. ACC recently expanded its partnership efforts by teaming up with the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) to place recycling bins at rest stops on route to popular tourist destinations. Data show that each year, bins placed through the campaign help to recycle roughly 45 tons of plastics (and more than 100 tons of other materials) in public spaces along California’s coast.