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U.S. demand rising for post-consumer plastic

December 5, 2012

CLEVELAND (Dec. 5, 9:15 a.m. ET) — Demand for U.S. post-consumer recycled plastic is expected to rise 6.5 percent per year to nearly 3.5 billion pounds in 2016, according to a recent study.

The increase – nearly 1 billion more pounds than last year’s demand – is attributed to growing emphasis on sustainability among packaging and consumer product manufacturers, improved processing and sorting technologies that can handle more plastic resins, and improved collection infrastructures, according to the “Recycled Plastics” study.

Freedonia Group Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm, conducted the study.

Support by federal, state and local governments for recycling efforts will help boost recycled plastic collection, processing and demand, according to the study.

But the overall U.S. plastic recycling rate will remain relatively low through 2016, with less than 7 percent of total plastic demand. Some of the challenges include minimal recycling in construction products, motor vehicles and packaging film.

Packaging will continue to lead the recycled plastic market in 2016, the study said, while plastic bottles will account for more than half of all plastic collected. Last year, PET and high density polyethylene were the two leading resins used in recycled plastic products, accounting for more than 70 percent of demand.

PET will see “average gains” in demand, the study said, due to increased recycled content in bottles and thermoformed containers. HDPE will see fewer increases and will limit the availability of recycled resin.

Polystyrene, nylon and other smaller volume resins will see rapid growth, due to increased collection of products such as consumer electronics, carpet and plastic foam.