American Recycler News, Inc.


Recycling of plastic bags, wraps and film rises to 1 billion pounds

The recycling of plastic film climbed 4 percent to reach 1 billion pounds annually in 2011 for the first time, according to a national report. The category of “plastic film” includes plastic bags, product wraps and commercial shrink film. The report, developed by Moore Recycling Associates, Inc. on behalf of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), noted that the recycling of plastic film has grown 55 percent since just 2005.

According to the report, approximately 58 percent of U.S.-recovered postconsumer film was consumed domestically in 2011 – up from 53 percent in 2010 – largely due to growth in the plastic and composite lumber industry, the primary market for this material.

The composite lumber industry showed a 120 million lb. increase in consumption from 2010 to 2011 to reach 55 percent of the total market for recovered film. Consumption of postconsumer plastic film by the film and sheet industry, the second largest market for this material, held steady at 100 million lbs., or 16 percent of the total market.

Recycled polyethylene film is used to make a range of products, including durable plastic and composite lumber for outdoor decks and fencing, home building products, garden products, crates, pipe and new film packaging like plastic bags.

Recovery data in the report, “2011 National Postconsumer Plastic Bag & Film Recycling Report,” is based on a survey of 19 U.S. and 3 Canadian processors of postconsumer film along with 37 companies that export this material.

Through ACC’s Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG), which represents resin producers, film converters, brand owners and recyclers, the industry is actively working to increase both commercial and consumer participation in the film recycling process.

There are currently more than 15,000 locations where consumers can take their used polyethylene bags and wraps to be recycled, primarily at large grocery and retail chains across the United States.