Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
The results of a recent research study by Moore Recycling Associates (Sonoma, CA), sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), deserve wider circulation. It shows that substantially more Americans have access to recycling than is generally believed, access is continuing to grow, and that more types of plastic products are being collected.
When Moore Recycling surveyed the 100 most populous U.S. cities in late 2008, only 29 of them had non-bottle rigid plastic recycling. In the recent study it found that 59 of them do. Further, in 2008 each of the 100 biggest cities had PET and HDPE bottle recycling, but only 38 of them were recycling any rigid plastic beyond that. Today 71 of the largest cities recycle other rigid plastics in addition to PET and HDPE bottles. As Moore looked at the recycling programs of nearly 2500 cities during its recent study, it found 1128 cities and 213 unincorporated areas that collect all rigid plastic containers.
The study didn’t cover recycling plastic film since Moore notes that film products are collected at about 12,000 locations across the USA. Interestingly, the study found that it is more effective to communicate which plastics are recyclable by listing or showing products like bottles, tubs, trays, and lids than by listing the 1-7 resin identification codes.
The full Moore Recycling report shows how photos of packaging are now used to make things easy for the person recycling. It works: My recycling system (in Denver, CO) garnishes its recycle bins with color photos of the OK packaging types, and recycling is up here.
As great as it is that more types of plastic products can be recycled, it’s also great to see that PET, already well recycled, is ready for another recycling growth spurt thanks to the thermoforming sector. SPI and NAPCOR (National Association for PET Container Resources; Sonoma, CA), just issued an RFP to U.S. recycling companies aimed at setting up a model program of collection and intermediate processing of thermoformed PET packaging.
It’s not just about bottles anymore—PET bottles that is. Thermoformed PET packages are the fastest growing segment in the entire rigid plastics packaging segment. Clamshells, cake containers, trays, boxes, lids, and more: Retailers and consumers both prefer them. Estimates are that over three billion pounds of thermoformed PET packages will be introduced in the U.S. and Canada by 2014, making it potentially the second largest contributor to the plastic recycling stream by volume, PET bottles being the largest.
Recapping the good news: 1) U.S. plastics recycling is gaining, 2) it’s gaining more than generally thought, and 3) more gains are coming. After all, over half of all Americans live in cities with more than 10,000 people, so they now can easily recycle their rigid plastic. The question is, will they? Let’s think positive: encourage them.