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First Time Twelve Packaging Groups Have Coalesced around Single Study Methodology

WASHINGTON (August 10, 2016) – A new study has reported that over 60 percent of the U.S. population has access to recycling programs for several types of plastics including polypropylene and polyethylene tubs and containers.

The report is significant not only because it reveals growth in U.S. recycling programs, but also because it provides data relevant to the potential assertion of green marketing claims. In general, the Federal Trade Commission requires that for an item to be marketed as “recyclable” (without qualification), a substantial majority (at least 60 percent) of consumers where the item is sold must have established recycling systems available.

Plastics Recycling Report The study, “2015-16 Centralized Study on Availability of Plastic Recycling,” measured the percentages of the U.S. population with access to programs that recycle specific categories of everyday plastic packaging, such as bottles, caps, cups, tubs and containers.

Among the study’s key findings are that a large percentage of U.S. consumers can recycle plastic tubs, containers and buckets, with 70 percent of consumers able to recycle PP tubs and containers, 69 percent able to recycle LDPE/LLDPE tubs, 61 percent able to recycle PP cups, and 60 percent able to recycle PS containers.

Other results show that a significant majority of Americans can recycle plastic bottles, though availability may fluctuate based on the type of plastic: 92 percent of consumers can recycle HDPE bottles, such as milk jugs; 78 – 81 percent can recycle bottles made from PVC, LDPE, LLDPE, PP, and other plastics; and 76 percent of consumers can recycle caps.

“These latest numbers show that more Americans are able to recycle more plastics than ever before,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council. “Plastics makers, brand owners, retailers and recyclers are continuing to work together to increase the types of plastics collected for recycling and to strengthen consumers’ awareness of these opportunities. We look forward to seeing growth in plastics recycling continue.”

Programs to improve plastics recycling include research and demonstration projects to evaluate new technologies, promoting policies to expand local recycling programs, and increasing consumer awareness of growing opportunities to recycle common types of plastic packaging.

Resource Recycling Systems and Moore Recycling Associates, Inc. conducted the study on the availability of plastics recycling as part of a larger effort, the “2015-16 Centralized Study on Availability of Recycling,” which looked at 49 different types of packaging and was commissioned by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). The SPC study marks the first time twelve packaging groups have coalesced around a single methodology to measure recycling availability. ACC’s Plastics Division supported the SPC study and the plastics specific portion.

The availability of recycling programs for flexible polyethylene packaging, including wraps and bags, is calculated in a separate report ("Plastic Film and Bag Recycling Collection: National Reach Study” - April 2012). Flexible wraps and bags, also known as “film,” typically are not collected in curbside programs, but are widely collected for recycling at more than 18,000 grocery and retail stores across the United States.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than 6 billion pounds of plastics were recycled in 2013.

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