Plastic bottle recycling by consumers increased 161 million pounds in 2012, edging up 6.2 percent to reach nearly 2.8 billion pounds for the year, according to figures released by the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC).
The recycling rate for all plastic bottles rose 1.6 percent to 30.5 percent for the year, according to the National Post-Consumer Plastics Bottle Recycling Report.
The 23rd annual report marks the 23rd consecutive year that Americans have increased the pounds of plastic bottles returned for recycling, the organizations say. The number of pounds of used bottles collected in the US has grown each year since the industry survey began in 1990.
During 2012, the collection of high-density polyethylene (HDPE, #2) bottles — a category that includes milk jugs and bottles for household cleaners and detergents — rose 45.3 million pounds to top 1 billion pounds for the first time, helping to boost the recycling rate for HDPE bottles from 29.9 to 31.6 percent.
This year’s survey of plastic bottle recycling also found that the collection of polypropylene (PP, #5) bottles rose to nearly 47 million pounds, an annual increase of 7.2 percent, with 73 percent of that material processed domestically as PP, rather than mixed with other resins. Domestic processing of postconsumer PP bottles increased 14 percent to reach 43.5 million pounds. Although PP caps and non-bottle containers are widely collected for recycling in the US, these data are released in a separate report on recycling non-bottle rigid plastics, which will be released in the coming weeks.
Together, polyethylene terephthalate (PET, #1) and HDPE bottles continue to make up more than 96 percent of the US market for plastic bottles with polypropylene bottles comprising half of the remaining 4 percent, according to ACC and APR.
Exports of HDPE bottles rose 30 million pounds to 201 million pounds in 2012, while imports of postconsumer HDPE decreased by 35 percent to 33.1 million pounds, which, combined with increased collection and exports, resulted in slightly lower purchases for US reclamation plants.
The ACC and APR report follows survey conducted by Research Data + Insights on behalf of the Carton Council of North America that found consumers expect companies to play an active role in recycling and they want a product’s packaging to tell them if it is recyclable. According to the survey of 1,000 adults published last week, 86 percent say they expect food and beverage brands to actively help increase the recycling of their packages.