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US PET recycling rate tops 30 percent

By: Jeremy Carroll

October 9, 2013

New York’s bottle deposit law and an increase of collections in California helped drive up the U.S. gross recycling rates of PET bottles to 30.8 percent, according to a new report from the National Association for PET Container Resources.

The report said there were 5.5 billion pounds of PET on U.S. shelves in 2012 with 1.7 billion pounds recycled. That’s a jump from 1.6 billion pounds of PET collected in 2011 with a recycling rate of 29.3 percent. This marks the first time that the gross recycling rate for PET bottles has topped 30 percent.

The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers helped develop the report, which included surveys from various organizations and other data collection.

According to the report, there was a 12.9 million pound collection increase of PET bottles in California over 2011 numbers and a “substantial” increase in deposit bottles from various locations including New York which is now seeing the full implementation to its 5 cent deposit law for all PET bottles, including bottled water.

Single-stream collection is also helping drive recycling rates, the report said.

Not all is positive though, as the report said the gains were countered by the “continued impact of lightweighting and reductions in single-serve container size.” There were also some collection programs cut or scaled back because of budget constraints, the report said.

Sales of bottle water, sports drinks, energy drinks, tea and coffee drinks rose in 2012.

“In the market-dominate carbonated soft drinks sector, both overall sales and PET resin use were flat to down,” the report said.

Overall there was a 2 percent growth in sales of PET bottles and jars. Of the 5.5 billion pounds of PET used in the U.S., that number included 326 million pounds of postconsumer PET recyclate.

According to the report, the majority of PET bottles collected went to U.S. reclaimers. U.S. reclaimers purchased 1.1 billion pounds of PET bottles while 547 million were purchased by export markets.

“This is the lowest volume of material exported since 2005-and as a relative percentage of total collected, the lowest since 2001-reflecting increased investment in domestic reclamation capacity,” the report said.