SOURCE: American Chemistry Council

American Chemistry Council

March 11, 2014 12:42 ET

Recycling of Rigid Plastics Surpasses 1 Billion Pounds, Triples Since 2007

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - Mar 11, 2014) - The recycling of rigid plastics excluding bottles rose to nearly 1.02 billion pounds in 2012, an increase of 10 percent over 2011 and triple the amount recycled in 2007 when the industry first began tracking rigid plastics recycling.

The "2012 National Report on Postconsumer Non-Bottle Rigid Plastic Recycling" attributes the 82 million-pound increase to rapid growth in the collection of plastics beyond bottles in municipalities across the United States.

"Tripling the recycling rate for rigid plastics in just six years is an amazing accomplishment," said Steve Alexander, executive director of the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR). "In a short period of time, rigids have become the fastest growing category of plastics recycling, and we're excited about the future."

Approximately 57 percent of the rigid plastics collected was processed in the United States and Canada with the remainder exported, primarily to China. Recycling statistics in 2012 were not affected by China's "Green Fence" policy, which began in February 2013. 

Polypropylene and polyethylene plastics comprise the largest portion (72 percent) of postconsumer rigid plastics collected in the United States with polypropylene constituting 38 percent of all rigid plastics recycling and high-density polyethylene constituting 34 percent. According to the report, polypropylene and polyethylene generally have the highest market value in both domestic and export markets because they are relatively easy to process and have a wide range of manufacturing uses.

"We are thrilled to see this kind of growth in rigid plastics recycling," said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council. "The increasing popularity of large bins and access to single-stream collection programs are making it easy for consumers to recycle their used plastics. We look forward to continuing to work with APR and other stakeholders in the ongoing effort to recycle and recover more plastics."

Primary domestic end uses for recycled rigid plastics include crates, buckets, pipe, auto parts, and lawn and garden products. Consumer products such as cutting boards, food storage containers and other types of kitchenware are becoming popular end uses, as are toothbrushes and razors. A small portion of recycled rigid plastics is used is used in composite materials for products such as outdoor lumber, pallets and railroad ties.

This is the sixth annual report on rigid plastics recycling conducted by Moore Recycling Associates and commissioned by the American Chemistry Council's Plastics Division. 

The report -- and the survey on which it is based -- defines non-bottle rigid plastics to include two major categories: containers (packaging and non-packaging) and bulky items. Containers include items such as blister packs, cups, tubs, trays, clamshells, caps and lids. Bulky rigids include items such as carts, crates, buckets, toys and lawn furniture.

Recycling statistics for plastic bottles and flexible plastic wraps and bags, also known as "film," are collected through the same survey and each category is reported separately.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through Responsible Care®, common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues, and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is a $770 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation's economy. It is one of the nation's largest exporters, accounting for twelve percent of all U.S. exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation's critical infrastructure.

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