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Key Points from the Latest Plastics Recycling Reports

The recycling of rigid plastics rose 27 percent in 2014 to a record annual high, according to a new report.

Post-consumer non-bottle rigid plastic recycling totaled 1.28 million pounds for the year, according to the report authored by Moore Recycling Associates. Also, the reported volume of recycled rigid plastics, tracked separately from bottles or film, is now four times greater than the volume reported in 2007, according to a news release.

The Sonoma, Calif.-based Moore Recycling also published a report on bag and film recycling, which stated that recycling of plastic film in 2014 rose 3 percent from the previous year, for a minimum of 1.17 billion pounds. Recycling of plastic film, which includes consumer wraps and bags, has increased 79 percent since 2005. The recycling rate for film has grown to 17 percent from 6.6 percent during that period.

Here are seven important points about the reports.

  1. Moore Recycling said the big jump in rigid plastics came from a rebound from the 2013 Green Fence effort in China, improved bale quality and growing standardization of plastics bales, which is how post-use plastics are sold after collection.
  2. Consistent with previous years, polypropylene and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) comprised the two largest resins in the category, representing 38.3 percent and 34.1 percent, respectively, of total rigid plastics collected. Rigid plastics include food containers, lids, tubs, clamshells, cups and bulky items.
  3. Approximately 64 percent of the 1.28 billion pounds of rigid plastics collected for recycling was processed in the United States or Canada, down slightly from 2013. The remainder was exported overseas, primarily to China.
  4. From Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the Washington-based American Chemistry Council (ACC): “This is really exciting news. The combination of more advanced sorting technologies coupled with expanded consumer access is making a positive difference, and we look forward to seeing growth in rigid plastics recycling continue.”
  5. Regarding film, of all the material collected for recycling in 2014, about 45 percent was processed in the United States or Canada. The remainder went primarily to China.
  6. The take from Patty Moore, president of Moore Recycling: "We’re pleased to see growth in these important areas of plastics recycling. Continued expansion of a healthy sorting and processing infrastructure, and further development of end markets for recycled materials are essential for building on recent gains.”
  7. A study on the other major segment of plastics, bottles, was published late last year. The plastic bottle recycling climbed 3.3 percent to top 3 billion pounds in 2014, according to the report from the ACC and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR). The recycling rate for plastic bottles climbed 1 percent to 31.8 percent for the year.
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