The American Chemistry Council has shared some uplifting news this week: Rigid plastics recycling grew 27 percent by weight in 2014, and film recycling also increased.
Those findings were shared in the form of two separate reports released Tuesday.
“Over the years we’ve been tracking very strong growth in both rigids and film,” Keith Christman, managing director of plastics markets for the Washington D.C.-based group, told Plastics Recycling Update. “If you look back historically, the amount of non-bottle rigids we recycled in 2014 is four times greater than in 2007. Similarly with film, we’ve grown 79 percent since 2005.”
“The overall trend is just amazing in terms of how much overall recycling is now happening for these two materials that are somewhat new to most folks,” Christman said.
The 2014 National Postconsumer Non-Bottle Rigid Plastic Recycling report estimates that 1.28 billion pounds of non-bottle rigid plastics – including items such as food containers, caps, lids and more – were collected for recycling in 2014, an increase of about 27 percent over 2013’s total of 1.01 billion pounds. Just under two-thirds of the 2014 haul – 64 percent – was handled domestically.
According to ACC’s Christman, access to non-bottle rigid recycling has seen a “dramatic” increase in recent years, which has consequently led to a large amount of the material entering the U.S. recycling stream.
“When we first started this report in 2007, less than 40 percent of people could recycle their non-bottle rigids. In 2012, that number grew to over 60 percent, and we think access has continued to go up,” Christman said.
On the film front, the 2014 National Postconsumer Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Report showed that 1.17 billion pounds of film, which includes residential and commercial bags and wraps, were recycled in 2014, 3 percent above 2013’s total of 1.14 billion pounds. About 45 percent of that film was recycled domestically.
ACC’s film recycling awareness program, WRAP, is now active in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Washington, pushing consumers to drop off film and bags at in-store locations. Christman said there’s “very strong growth in the collection of bags and film at the front of the store and huge opportunities to increase that as we get more consistent messages to the public, and also at the same time we see reduced contamination at materials recovery facilities (MRFs).”
An effort in Vancouver, Wash., which was the subject of another ACC report released this week, led to the doubling of in-store collection and a sizable decrease in contamination at MRFs.