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Data Corner: Breaking down recycled packaging materials by weight

Published: September 9, 2019


The shifting stream of materials used in packaging has been much-discussed. But while it’s true plastics are being used in more applications, fiber continues to dominate the recycling stream from a volume perspective.

The chart below shows the consumption of different recycled packaging materials by global end use packaging markets in 2018. Over 80 percent of all recycled packaging (by weight) going back into packaging is paperboard. Just over 1 percent is plastics.

Global recycled packaging materials used for packaging were valued at $136.5 billion in 2018 and are forecast to grow by 5.7% annually through 2023, to $180.1 billion. Global recycled packaging materials used for packaging amounted to 188.7 million metric tons in 2018 and are forecast to grow 4.7% annually through 2023, to 237.2 million metric tons.

Plastics are forecast to grow during 2018–23 at the highest rate (5.2% per annum), followed by paperboard (4% per annum).

These numbers are outlined in “The Future of Recycled Packaging Markets to 2023,” a report published by Smithers Pira.

For more information on that analysis, visit

This article originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.

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