MARCH 2012

Non-bottle rigid plastics recycling soars

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) released a new report showing a significant increase in the collection and recycling of non-bottle rigid plastics in the United States. The report, prepared by Moore Recycling Associates, Inc., found that in 2010, nearly 820 million pounds of post-consumer rigid plastics were collected for recycling nationwide, an increase of 72 percent from 2009 and 154 percent since 2007.

Recycling of rigid plastics, such as spray bottles, increased by 72 percent last year.

The category “non-bottle rigid plastics” includes nondurable items (or packaging), such as dairy and deli tubs, lids, yogurt cups and similar food containers, and durable items, such as pallets, crates, carts, five gallon buckets and electronic housings. The collection and recycling of non-bottle rigid plastics is relatively new and calculated separately from plastic bottles, which have been widely recycled in the United States for decades.

Of the 100 largest U.S. cities, the number of cities collecting rigid plastics in addition to plastic bottles doubled in just three years growing from 29 in 2008 to 59 in 2011. This means far more consumers have convenient access to recycle their rigid plastics. In addition, many communities are shifting to “single-stream collection,” whereby residents are able to place all of their recyclables in the same bin. Simplifying the process has been shown to greatly increase consumer participation in recycling programs.

The report also notes that robust growth in the recycling of rigid plastics in the commercial sector and strong pricing and demand for recycled plastic materials have helped to spur growth in this category. According to the report, among the five major types of recyclable materials, plastic scrap has the highest economic value per ton with the single exception of nonferrous metals.

The plastics collected in the “non-bottle rigids” category comprise primarily polypropylene (PP) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) as well as lesser amounts of other/mixed resins, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and low density polyethylene (LDPE).