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NASHVILLE (February 21, 2018) – Two major categories of plastics recycling, non-bottle rigid plastics and plastic wraps, bags and flexible film packaging (collectively “film”), each jumped ten percent in 2016. Rigids reached a minimum of 1.46 billion pounds and film climbed to 1.3 billion pounds collected for recycling, according to two recycling reports released today. 

The reports also demonstrated dramatic long-term growth in both plastics recycling categories. The volume of rigid plastics collected for recycling in 2016 is nearly 4.5 times greater than the volume collected in the 2007 inaugural report. Additionally, plastic film recycling has grown for twelve consecutive years and has more than doubled since 2005 when the first report was compiled.

The 2016 National Post-Consumer Non-Bottle Rigid Plastic Recycling Report and the 2016 National Post-Consumer Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Report were released today at the annual Plastics Recycling Conference.

“We are pleased to see the increase in plastic film and rigid plastics recycling in 2016 and the dramatic growth over the last decade,” said Steve Russell, vice president of ACC’s Plastics Division. “America’s plastic makers are committed to supporting plastics recycling growth through improved infrastructure and education, and believe that these efforts will continue to support the industry in future years.”

Both reports attribute the increase in material collected for recycling partly to demand from export markets. As a result of China’s 2017 policy restricting imports of scrap materials, including plastics, the plastics recycling value chain is working to develop stronger domestic end markets to continue the increase in plastics recovered for recycling. 

“From investments in recycling facilities and advanced technologies, to public commitments to use more recycled plastics in products and packaging, we see real dedication from the recyclers and end users to grow end-market opportunities for plastics recycling here in the U.S.,” said Russell. 

Currently, recycled plastic film is used in composite lumber, new film and sheet, agricultural products, crates, buckets, and pallets. Typical end markets for non-bottle rigids include automotive parts, crates, buckets, pipe, lawn and garden products, and thick-walled injection molded products.

Plastic film includes flexible product wraps, bags and commercial stretch film made primarily from polyethylene. 

The rigid plastics category contains food containers, caps, lids, tubs, clamshells, cups and bulky items, such as buckets, carts and lawn furniture, along with used commercial scrap, such as crates, battery casings and drums. As in prior years, high-density polyethylene and polypropylene comprised the two largest resins in this category representing 40 percent and 36 percent, respectively, of total rigid plastics collected.

Both the film and rigids reports were based on an annual survey of reclaimers conducted by More Recycling.

ACC’s Plastics Division tracks recycling collection annually in three categories: film, rigids, and bottles. Statistics on plastic bottle recycling were reported previously in the 2016 United States National Postconsumer Plastic Bottle Recycling Report (November 2017).


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