How Did the U.S. Do in Rigid Plastics Recycling Study?

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On the heels of its recent report that plastic bag recycling has increased 27 percent, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) released a report on the state of recycling of non-bottle rigid plastics for the U.S. In 2007, the U.S. collected more than 325 million pounds of these plastics for recycling.

If you take a look, you will notice that these types of plastics are found all around your home and workplace. “Non-bottle rigid plastics” refer to plastics or packaging like plastic #5 polypropylene (PP) cups (like the clear cups Starbucks uses) and similar food containers, plastic #2 high-density polyethylene (HDPE) tubs and other “durable” items like pallets, crates, carts, 5-gallon buckets and electronic housings.

Polypropylene containers like these are popular for use of prepared foods in grocery and convenience stores. Photo: My.packexpo.com

Polypropylene containers like these are popular for use of prepared foods in grocery and convenience stores. Photo: My.packexpo.com

“This inaugural report on the recycling of non-bottle rigid plastics provides an important baseline from which we can track future progress,” said Steve Russell, managing director for ACC’s Plastics Division.

The use of these types of plastics has grown over the past ten years, as well as the number of communities recycling them, because their recycling demand is high in both local and export markets. In fact, in 2008, 28 of the 100 largest U.S. cities collected non-bottle rigid plastics through curbside programs, according to ACC.

Of the plastics collected, 44 percent consisted of HDPE, 38 percent consisted of PP and the remainder consisted of polystyrene (PS), polyethylene (PET) and other mixed plastics.

Additionally, two-thirds of the plastics collected for recycling were exported to China. The remainder of this material was primarily used to create new pallets, crates, composite lumber, railroad ties, gardening items and similar products throughout North America.

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