American Recycler News, Inc.


Consumer recycling of plastic bottles climbs in U.S.

Plastic bottle recycling by consumers increased 45 million lbs. in 2011, edging up 1.7 percent, to reach over 2.6 billion lbs. for the year, according to figures released by the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC). The recycling rate for plastic bottles held steady, inching up 1/10th of 1 percent to reach 28.9 percent for the year.

The National Post-Consumer Plastics Bottle Recycling Report marks the twenty-second consecutive year that Americans have increased the amount of plastic bottles returned for recycling. The number of lbs. of used bottles collected in the United States has grown each year since the industry survey began in 1990.

Domestic processing of all recycled plastic bottles – including imported materials – rose 89 million lbs. over 2010.

“With reduced exports and increased imports of recovered bottles, plastic bottle recycling continues to be an international business with domestic companies competing effectively,” said Steve Alexander, executive director of APR.

The report verified that single-stream collection – whereby all recycled materials are placed in a single bin – continues to grow, helping to boost household participation rates.

“Even with increased collection, demand for recycled plastics far outpaces supply,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council. “We need everyone to do their part to get more plastics into the bin. The good news is that with so many communities adopting single-stream recycling, it has never been easier to recycle many types of plastics.”

The report showed that the amount of HDPE bottles collected dipped slightly (1 percent) in 2011, while the collection rate for HDPE held steady at 29.9 percent. Imports of postconsumer HDPE increased by 106 percent to 51.1 million lbs., which, combined with decreased collection and fallen exports, resulted in slightly higher production in U.S. reclamation plants.

PET and HDPE bottles continue to make up over 96 percent of the U.S. market for plastic bottles. In 2011, interest in lighter weight packaging continued among manufacturers and retailers, resulting in the use of plastics in new bottle applications; however, market growth was largely offset by trends toward smaller bottles (e.g., concentrated detergents), lighter bottles and the sluggish economy.