American Recycler News, Inc.


Recycling of rigid plastics tops 930 million lbs.

The recycling of rigid plastics, excluding bottles, climbed 13 percent in 2011 to reach approximately 934 million pounds for the year, and U.S. consumers with local access to recycle all non-bottle rigid plastics shot from 40 percent to 57 percent between 2011 and 2012, according to a pair of reports released recently.

Both reports were the result of extensive survey work conducted by Moore Recycling Associates Inc. on behalf of the American Chemistry Council.

The “2011 National Postconsumer Non-Bottle Rigid Plastic Recycling Report” found that 61 percent of rigid plastics collected in the United States were recycled in the U.S. or Canada, a sharp increase from the slightly over one-third recycled in this region in 2007, when Moore Recycling began measuring rigid plastics collection.

This report also found that polypropylene and polyethylene plastics comprise the largest portion (70 percent) of postconsumer non-bottle rigid plastics collected in the United States with polypropylene constituting 39 percent of all rigid plastics recycling and high-density polyethylene constituting 31 percent.

Contributing to the recent surge in rigid plastics recycling has been a substantial increase in the number of communities that are now collecting many types of rigid plastics in addition to bottles. The new consumer access report, “Plastic Recycling Collection: National Reach Study, 2012 Update” found that more than 1,400 cities and 300 counties in the United States now collect all rigid plastic containers in addition to plastic bottles.

Another key finding of this report is that the portion of U.S. consumers with access to recycle two key categories of rigid containers – HDPE rigid cups, tubs and containers and PET trays, clamshells and cups – now tops 60 percent. This means that for the first time, under the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines, recycling access is sufficiently widespread to label these containers “recyclable” without additional qualification or disclaimer.

“With recycling of rigid plastics containers now available to a substantial majority of Americans the recycling message can be greatly simplified, making it easier to educate consumers,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council.

The primary domestic end uses for recycled rigid plastics are pipe, buckets, automotive products and other relatively thick-walled injection products, such as drums and crates.

Data on the recycling of plastic bottles, plastic film, and rigid plastics are captured in surveys and reported separately. The collection of plastics in all three categories has increased recently, with rigid plastics growing the fastest followed closely by film.