Plastic bag and film recycling in the U.S. reached a record high in 2008, recovering about 832,394,000 pounds of post-consumer film, according to a new study from the American Chemistry Council.
The report, “National Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic Bags and Film Report” (PDF), conducted by Moore Recycling Associates, finds that plastic bag and film recovery increased 28 percent since 2005, driven by several factors including greater consumer access to collection programs and new markets for the recycled materials such as backyard decking, fencing, railings, shopping carts and new bags.
The report’s findings are based on recovery data from 19 domestic processors or end-users of film material and 60 companies that export material. However, researchers note that the recycling numbers may understate actual bag and film recycling because export data was more difficult to obtain.
Another finding shows that the recycling programs are being led in part by plastic bag makers. As an example, the Full Circle Recycling Initiative initiated by Progressive Bag Affiliates (PBA) announced a recycling goal of 40 percent recycled content in all plastic shopping bags by 2015. The group expects to collect about 470 million pounds of recycled plastic annually for manufacturing new bags.
In addition, some states have implemented recycling rules that could spike the recycling numbers even higher. As an example, in 2008, New York’s Governor Patterson signed legislation that will require many retail stores to recycle plastic carry-out bags or face fines from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.