Canada collected more plastic for recycling in 2014 than it did the year before, with big boosts in curbside-collected film driving the increase.
In 2014, at least 353,511 tons of post-consumer plastic (including commercial material) were collected for recycling, according to a report from Moore Recycling Associates. That marked a 2.9 percent increase (10,161 tons) in weight when compared with 2013.
The report was released by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), which emphasized the volume increase at a time of continuing packaging lightweighting. It was based on surveys from Moore Recycling Associates, the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR).
The researchers noted that because not all companies responded to the survey requests, collection numbers in the report represent the minimum level of plastics recovery.
The Moore report noted a sharp uptick in film collections. In 2014, more than 68,000 tons of film were collected for recycling, 14.5 percent more than was collected the year before. The film increase amounted to an additional 8,608 tons. The film increase accounted for 85 percent of Canada’s increased plastic collection overall.
At the same time, most of the additional film came from material collected at the curb and sorted at materials recovery facilities (MRFs). Of the 8,608 tons of additional film, 6,289 tons, or 73 percent of it, was from curbside material. The next biggest increase, at 2,115 tons, was from commercial clear film.
However, researchers also noted the difficulties of recycling curbside film because of contamination issues.
“Fewer than five U.S. and Canadian companies are able to process curbside ﬁlm,” they wrote. “Processors of post-consumer material collected curbside continue to express concerns about contamination from glass (and other abrasive material) and non-polyethylene plastic. Nearly all reclaimers expressed concern about the presence of PP and other non-polyethylene ﬁlm in the recycling stream.”
Canada’s boost in plastic collections was also driven by increases in natural and colored HDPE bottle collections, according to the report. In 2014, HDPE bottles recovery grew by 3.5 percent.
The majority of plastics collected in Canada, 78 percent, were reclaimed in either Canada or the U.S. Another 17 percent were exported, and the destination of the remaining 5 percent was unknown.
Still, in 2014, the percentage of Canadian collected plastic processed in North America was at its lowest level since 2009, when the the annual report began and such statistics first became available.