Did We Improve Our Plastic Recycling Rates in 2009 From 2008?

Yes and no. Continuing our blog thread on recycling rates, the 2009 report was recently published (http://www.plasticsrecycling.org/images/stories/doc/2009usnatpostconsplasticbottrecycreport.pdf). Highlights and insight are provided below. 

The US improved in the following areas:

  • The total pounds of plastic bottles recycled reached a record high 2,456 million pounds.
  • The total plastic bottle recycling rate was 27.8%, up from 27.0% in 2008.
  • The total pounds of plastic bottles collected increased by 46 million pounds for 2009 over 2008.
  • The annual increase in pounds of plastic bottles recycled was 1.9%.
  • The 20 year compounded annual growth rate for plastic bottle recycling was 9.4%.
  • HDPE bottles collected rose by 44.9 million pounds to 981.6 million pounds.
  • The HDPE bottle recycling rate rose to 29.2% in 2009 from 29.0% in 2008 with an increase in amount collected for recycling and increase in resin used for bottles.
  • Exports of US-collected HDPE bottle material increased to 234 million pounds, 23.8% of domestically collected material with approximately 6/7’s of the exports leaving North America.
  • Polypropylene bottle recycling totaled 27.0 million pounds, an increase of 27% over 2008 with 48% of the total processed domestically as deliberate PP material, as opposed to mixed material flake.

Areas the US could have done better:

  • PET bottles collected decreased by 7 million pounds for a total of 1,444 million pounds.
  • Imports of postconsumer HDPE to the United States decreased by 72% to 40 million pounds, which with increased exports resulted in decreased production and capacity utilization of USA reclamation plants.

In general, it was a positive year for plastics recycling with a new twist on some of the issues:

  • Pricing recovered somewhat, still lower than 2006/2007 levels, but higher than and more stable than 2008
  • Resin use increased as more users required recycled content in their products, but still not to 2006/2007 levels
  • Recycling programs expanded the variety of plastics accepted, increasing the amount collected, but also creating more contaminated bales with less yields for the particular plastic recyclers
  • With HDPE recycling considerably higher, importing was less of an issue and in fact reduced significantly, but it also sent more HDPE offshore as the need became more competitive

As we look to 2010 results, we hope that the trajectories continue in the positive direction for all of these aspects.

We welcome any other topics you wish to see or your comments on our posts.

Need more information? Envision Plastics Vice President, Tamsin Ettefagh will be happy to discuss your comments or concerns in greater depth. Contact her at 336/342-4749 Ext 225.