Plastics help bring home more product with less packaging. Plastic packaging in general is lightweight and strong—different plastics can be molded, extruded, cast and blown into seemingly limitless shapes and films or foams. This resourcefulness often delivers while using minimal resources, creating less waste, consuming fewer resources and creating fewer CO2 emissions than alternative materials. And when plastics are recycled, their sustainability profile improves even more. Today, 94 percent of Americans have easy access to plastics recycling opportunities, whether through a municipal curbside program or a nearby drop-off site.
So how much plastic gets recycled? ACC tracks this information annually for three categories of plastics.
Recycling By the Numbers
Over 2.8 billion pounds of plastic bottles were recycled in the United States in 2012, and a recent national report found that 94 percent of Americans can recycle plastic bottles in their community (full report here).
At least 1.02 billion pounds of “rigid” plastics including rigid containers—the category of plastics that includes things like yogurt cups, dairy tubs and lids—were recycled in 2012, triple the amount for 2007. A recent study also found that access to recycling of many types of these rigid containers (HDPE, PP, PET, LDPE) now exceeds 60 percent of the population—the level which the Federal Trade Commission has set for unqualified claims of recyclability.
Bags and Film
In 2012, an estimated one billion pounds of plastic bags and wraps, the category of plastics that includes things like grocery and retail bags, newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags, and wraps from bread, bathroom tissue, paper towels, beverage cases, diapers and baby wipes, were recycled in the United States—up 56 percent from 2005 (see full report).