Plastics Recycling Update

Our top stories from 2021

CarbonLite Facility exterior with California and U.S. flags.

The bankruptcy of PET recycling firm CarbonLITE drew reader attention in 2021. | Courtesy of CarbonLITE

As the plastics recycling industry plunges into 2022, it can be useful to set the stage with a look at the biggest trends and developments of the past 12 months.

The list below shows our top 10 stories from 2021 in ascending order (with the most-read article in the No. 1 position at the bottom). Last year, reclaimer updates, market fluctuations, chemical recycling and more grabbed attention. We here at Plastics Recycling Update are set to keep tracking those news points and everything else shaping the sector in the months to come.

10 | Ohio PET reclaimer begins $22 million expansion
APRIL 22: Early in the second quarter of 2021, Evergreen launched a project to double its food-grade RPET capacity to 80 million pounds per year.

9 | Unilever invests in fund that acquires recycling companies
MARCH 24: Unilever North America invested $15 million in the Closed Loop Partners Leadership Fund, a private equity platform that helps grow companies in the recycling value chain.

8 | Prices for post-consumer plastic bales continue to rise
FEB. 17: February was marked by value boosts for recovered PET, HDPE and PP materials.

7 | Chemical recycling now at the center of national plastics debate
MARCH 31: Legislation that makes sweeping changes to the U.S. plastics recycling system generated quick opposition from industry groups, with plastics industry representatives focused on the bill’s treatment of certain materials recovery processes.

6 | Supply issues and virgin competition jostle resin prices
FEB. 10: Early in the year, recycled plastic sellers were facing cost pressures from cheap virgin material, and an expert said reclamation costs were not expected to come down to close that pricing gap.

5 | Plastics giants snatch up CarbonLite plants via auction
MAY 26: As part of a bankruptcy case, DAK Americas, Indorama Ventures and The Sterling Group submitted the high bids to acquire CarbonLite’s PET recycling facilities.

4 | Packaging stewardship passes in both Oregon chambers
JUNE 23: The Oregon House of Representatives approved a bill establishing extended producer responsibility for packaging and overhauling the state’s recycling system in June. The bill, which had cleared the Senate earlier that month, was eventually signed into law by the state’s governor.

3 | Google explores how to capture 4.5 billion tons of plastic
AUG. 18: A report from Google lays out how mechanical and chemical recycling, a virgin plastic production tax, consumer incentives and more can increase plastics recovery over the next two decades.

2 | Eastman offers details on $250M depolymerization plant
FEB. 3: Eastman’s plastics sorting capabilities and complementary chemical recycling technologies will help it cost-effectively secure the ample feedstock supply needed for a huge methanolysis plant, the company’s CEO said.

1 | CarbonLite files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
MARCH 8: PET recycling firm CarbonLite and a subsidiary filed for bankruptcy in March, indicating the company planned to reorganize and continue operating. A company leader said market strife and COVID-19 impacts led to the decision.

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