The Association of Plastic Recyclers

The National Postconsumer Plastic Bottle Recycling Report is out – here’s what it means: RECYCLERS NEED MORE MATERIAL TO RECYCLE

A primary goal at The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) is to further the circular economy by dramatically increasing the volume of plastic that is recycled back into marketable products.Brand owners make new public commitments on almost a weekly basis to use significantly more recycled content in their products and packages. It is essential that more postconsumer plastic is made available to recyclers just to keep up!

One good measuring stick for assessing the amount of material available to recyclers is the recycling rate for plastic bottles. For almost three decades, APR and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) have undertaken an annual study to quantify the amount of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP) bottles collected for recycling, as well as the rate of recycling of those bottles.This study also includes postconsumer recycling values and comments for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) developed by the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR).

This year the message is clear -- we need to collect more material coming into the recycling stream, and we need to increase the demand for recycled material.

On December 18th, APR, along with ACC, released the 29th annual National Postconsumer Plastic Bottle Recycling Report.The report found that the domestic collection of plastic bottles for recycling rose by 52 million pounds, or 1.8 percent, to reach nearly 2.9 billion pounds in 2018. At the same time, the overall recycling rate for plastic bottles was 28.9%, a slight decline of 0.4 percent from the prior year.

The report also showed that the overwhelming majority (90%) of plastic bottles collected for recycling are processed here in the United States. Domestic capacity utilization for both PET and HDPE rose in 2018. PET reclaimer plant capacity utilization rose to 80 percent with HDPE climbing to 73 percent. For additional information on the PET data, the 2018 PET Recycling Report is available to purchase on NAPCOR's website.

So what is the message to be gleaned from the report? Plastic bottle recycling is alive and well in the U.S., but we could be doing even better. The amount of material collected is increasing, but the rate of recycling remains flat. An APR study shows we need to collect almost three times the amount of plastic bottles just to meet the recycled content goals already announced by brand owners.

The report underscores the importance of APR's work to dramatically increase the volume of plastic that is recycled back into marketable products. Every day, APR is working with a wide range of stakeholders to raise consumer awareness, encourage more investment in recycling infrastructure, increase demand for products made from recycled material, and for products to be designed for recyclability.

Plastic recyclers stand ready to handle an increased volume of recyclable materials in tandem with growing awareness and demand for that material. We can take on much more material for processing.The latest rate report shows that we are making progress, but there is more work to be done.

Read the APR/ACC joint press release on the report here.

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