U.S. plastic bottle recycling rose in 2014, continuing a long-term trend dating back to the 1990s.
According to the 25th annual bottle recycling report from the American Chemistry Council and the Association of Plastic Recyclers, more than 3 billion pounds of plastic bottles were recycled in 2014. That number is the highest on record.
With roughly 9.4 billion pounds of bottles put on the market in 2014, the U.S. recovery rate for plastic bottles was 31.8 percent, a percentage point above 2013’s mark of 30.8 percent. While PET bottle recovery fell slightly, to 31.0 percent, despite overall collection being higher, both recovery rates and totals for HDPE and PP were on the rise.
In 2014, 33.6 percent of HDPE bottles were recycled, with overall collection surpassing the 1.1 billion pound mark. Nearly 45 percent of PP bottles were recycled, with overall collection totaling 795 million pounds.
While the report focuses on PET, HDPE and PP bottles, it also points to increases in PVC, LDPE and PS recycling.
On the post-collection end, 21.9 percent of collected bottles were exported, a slight drop from 2013’s rate of 22.1 percent and a far cry from 2012’s rate of more than 28 percent.
The report, which is prepared annually with the help of Moore Recycling Associates and PET-focused group NAPCOR, also notes a handful of barriers to increased collection.
According to the study, despite advances in single-stream collection, more needs to be done to increase recycling at the curb.
“Too many consumers continue to be unaware of the significant usefulness, demand and value of recycled plastic including HDPE and PET and PP,” ACC and APR write.
The duo also says away-from-home consumption of bottles requires more receptacles to be strategically placed in public spaces. A 2009 report from Keep America Beautiful calculated just 9 percent of public spaces have recycling bins.