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Recycling of HDPE Bottles Tops One Billion Pounds in 2012


Contact: Jennifer Killinger (202) 249-6619  
Email: jennifer_killinger@americanchemistry.com

Contact: Steve Alexander (202) 316-3046  
Email: salexander@cmrgroup4.com

Rate Climbs to Nearly 32 Percent

WASHINGTON (November 6, 2013) – Plastic bottle recycling by consumers increased 161 million pounds in 2012, edging up 6.2 percent, to reach nearly 2.8 billion pounds for the year, according to figures released jointly today by the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC). The recycling rate for all plastic bottles rose 1.6 percent to 30.5 percent for the year.

The 23rd annual National Post-Consumer Plastics Bottle Recycling Report marks the twenty-third consecutive year that Americans have increased the pounds of plastic bottles returned for recycling. The number of pounds of used bottles collected in the United States has grown each year since the industry survey began in 1990.

During 2012, the collection of high-density polyethylene (HDPE, #2) bottles—a category that includes milk jugs and bottles for household cleaners and detergents—rose 45.3 million pounds to top one billion pounds for the first time, helping to boost the recycling rate for HDPE bottles from 29.9 to 31.6 percent.

“We are very encouraged by the steady growth in plastic bottle recycling,” said Steve Alexander, executive director of APR.  “Used plastics are valuable materials, and recyclers rely on all of us to make sure these resources make it into a recycling bin.”

“Thanks to increased consumer access to recycling programs and growth in single-stream collection—whereby consumers place all recycled materials into a single bin—plastics recycling is one of the easiest things we can do to benefit the planet,” added Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council. 

“In the United States, we have the capacity to recycle more used plastics than we are currently collecting, and innovative manufacturers are using these materials in new and exciting ways. Each of us can help by doing our part to get more used plastics into a recycling bin,” Russell said.

Alexander and Russell offered three simple tips to help consumers recycle more of their plastic bottles:

  • Bring it back. If you empty a plastic bottle on-the-go, bring it back to a bin.
  • Recycle all plastic bottles. Today, recyclers collect all types of plastic bottles, regardless of the number, or resin identification code, printed on the bottom.
  • Don’t forget about caps! Recyclers want both caps and bottles, so please remember to twist caps back on bottles after use.

This year’s survey of plastic bottle recycling also found that the collection of polypropylene (PP, #5) bottles rose to nearly 47 million pounds, an annual increase of 7.2 percent, with 73 percent of that material processed domestically as PP, rather than mixed with other resins. Domestic processing of postconsumer PP bottles increased 14 percent to reach 43.5 million pounds. Although PP caps and non-bottle containers are widely collected for recycling in the United States, these data are released in a separate report on recycling non-bottle rigid plastics, which will be released in the coming weeks.

Together, polyethylene terephthalate (PET, #1) and HDPE bottles continue to make up over 96 percent of the U.S. market for plastic bottles with polypropylene bottles comprising half of the remaining 4 percent.

Exports of HDPE bottles rose 30 million pounds to 201 million pounds in 2012, while imports of postconsumer HDPE decreased by 35 percent to 33.1 million pounds, which, combined with increased collection and exports, resulted in slightly lower purchases for U.S. reclamation plants.

The full 2012 report National Post-Consumer Plastics Bottle Recycling Report is available on the “Reports and Publications” section of ACC’s website and on APR’s (www.plasticsrecycling.org) website.

Data on PET recycling referenced in the report were separately funded and published by APR and the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR). A separate report, entitled 2012 Report on Post-Consumer PET Container Recycling Activity, is available on APR’s website.

The survey of reclaimers in the study was conducted by Moore Recycling Associates, Inc.

Resources for municipal recyclers are available at www.recycleyourplastics.org

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