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Recycling Rates Are Rising for Plastic Bags and Wrap

Okay, put on your thinking caps: 1.2 billion pounds plastic bags and wrap was recovered for recycling in 2015. That’s 34 million more pounds than in 2014 and a 3% rise, which is the 11th year in a row that this number has jumped.

This is all part of the 2015 National Post-Consumer Plastic Bag & Film Recycling Report,” which was released by the American Chemistry Council.

Plastic film recycling—a category that includes flexible product wraps, bags and commercial stretch film made primarily from polyethylene (PE)—has increased nearly 84 percent since the first report was issued in 2005, it says. Overall, about 15% of that material is recycled.

In 2015, U.S. and Canadian processors recycled approximately 48% of the post-consumer film recovered for recycling and the remainder was exported, says the report, researched by Moore Recycling Associates of California. That number is notable because sales of products with that wrapping increased by 11% while exports of it rose by 4%.

“We are very pleased that plastic film recycling continues to grow,” says Steve Russell, vice president of ACC’s Plastics Division, in a statement. “America’s plastic makers are strong supporters of plastic film recycling and, due to expanding participation in our Wrap Recycling Action Program, or WRAP, we expect to see film recycling continue to rise.”

A separate report found that the post-consumer recycling of non-bottle rigid plastics has grown 280% since tracking began in 2007. Altogether, about 67% of those products were recycled in the US or Canada, according to the 2015 National Post-Consumer Non-Bottle Rigid Recycling Report

“America’s plastics makers are committed to supporting continued long-term gains in plastics recycling through public policy, infrastructure improvements and education,” said Russell. “We believe states’ recycling goals and brand-owners’ commitments to use more recycled plastics are helping to create greater stability and demand in the industry.”

The rigid plastics category includes food containers, caps, lids, tubs, and cups; bulky items such as buckets, carts and lawn furniture; and used commercial scrap such as crates, battery casings and drums, the release says.

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