Plastic packaging is valuable and should be recycled where possible. By doing more with less, plastic packaging helps improve sustainability—and then in many cases, recycling can further enhance its sustainability.
Recycling varies from place to place, but most community curbside programs recycle plastic bottles—and many now recycle other plastic containers. Most large grocery stores—and many large retail chains—today offer bins to collect plastics bags and wraps for recycling. And there is a growing number of innovative plastic foodservice recycling programs across the country.
What about those numbers and arrows on the bottom of plastic packaging? Plastics Make It Possible® has some answers to help everyone recycle more plastic packaging. And here’s an overview on plastics recycling in the United States…or dig deeper to learn about recycling rates and what happens to recycled plastics.
So how much plastic gets recycled? ACC tracks this information annually for three categories of plastics.
Recycling By the Numbers
In 2014 plastic bottle recycling grew 97 million pounds, increasing 3.3 percent, to top 3 billion pounds for the year. The recycling rate for plastic bottles climbed 1.0 percent to 31.8 percent for the year. The collection of high-density polyethylene (HDPE, #2) bottles—a category that includes milk jugs and bottles for household cleaners and detergents—rose to nearly 1.1 billion pounds, a gain of over 62 million pounds from 2013. The recycling rate for HDPE bottles rose to 33.6 percent (full report here).
At least 1.02 billion pounds of “rigid” plastics including rigid containers—the category of plastics that includes things like yogurt cups, dairy tubs and lids—were recycled in 2012, triple the amount for 2007. A recent study also found that access to recycling of many types of these rigid containers (HDPE, PP, PET, LDPE) now exceeds 60 percent of the population—the level which the Federal Trade Commission has set for unqualified claims of recyclability.
Bags and Film
In 2013 a minimum of 1.14 billion pounds of postconsumer film (which includes plastic bags and packaging) was recovered for recycling, an increase of 74 percent since 2005. (see full report).