PET, HDPE bottle recycling inches forward in 2012

PET, HDPE bottle recycling inches forward in 2012

By Bobby Elliott, Resource Recycling

Nov. 7, 2013

An annual report on HDPE and PET plastic bottle collection and recycling in the U.S. shows recycling activity picked up slightly in 2012 while only nominal growth was seen in consumption.

"The 2012 United States National Post-Consumer Plastics Bottle Recycling Report," released by The Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, is the 23rd annual survey of industry sales, collection and recycling data. According to the report, consumers recycled 2.79 billion pounds of plastic bottles in 2012, good for a 6.2 percent year-over-year (YOY) increase.

After a disappointing showing in 2011, when the recycling rate was nearly identical to 2010's rate of 28.9 percent, recycling of plastic bottles increased 1.6 percentage points in 2012, to 30.5 percent. PET and HDPE accounted for more than 98 percent of the bottles recycled in 2012.

Overall, PET container sales rose to 5.59 billion pounds during the year, an increase of 108 million pounds YOY. Sales of recycled PET containers also rose, as did processing of recycled PET containers. The PET container recycling rate increased from 29.3 percent in 2011 to 30.8 percent in 2012.

HDPE, on the other hand, had a slightly more challenging year. While the HDPE container recycling rate increased to 31.6 percent in 2012, with more than 1 billion pounds of the resin recycled in the container realm, the study credits the boost more to falling sales than upticks in recycling volume. HDPE container sales were down from 3.26 billion pounds in 2011 to 3.23 billion pounds in 2012, with sales of recycled HDPE containers remaining static.

In a press release announcing the publication of the study, Steve Russell of the ACC credited "increased consumer access to recycling programs and growth in single-stream collection" for 2012's modest gains, saying, "In the U.S., 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."

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