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US recycling market growing despite challenges

November 13, 2013

AKRON, OHIO — The North American plastic recycling sector had its own particular set of challenges in 2012-2013, but none of those hurdles have been able to stop the industry from growing, though the growth hasn’t been as robust as industry participants might have expected.

According to a Plastics News report titled “Plastic Recycling Market Review and Outlook 2014 — North America — Post-consumer & Post-Industrial,” the U.S. PET recycling rate increased for the eighth consecutive year in 2011. However, the rate of increase was the lowest posted by the market since 2006. At 29.3 percent, the national gross recycling rate was more than 5 percentage points above where it was in 2006, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), an industry association based in Sonoma, Calif. NAPCOR released its most recent recycling report in late 2012 through a partnership with the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR).

The increased recycling rate can be attributed, in part, to the increase in the volume of bottles collected in the United States. That amount increased from less than 1.3 billion pounds in 2006 to just over 1.6 billion pounds in 2011 — an increase of 26 percent.

Another contributing factor, according to the report, was a drop in the volume of plastic bottles on U.S. shelves. Volume peaked at almost 5.7 billion pounds in 2007, with the United States and the rest of the world teetering on the edge of a global recession. By 2009, that volume declined to below 5.2 million pounds. It remained under 5.5 million pounds in 2011. Reasons behind the drop in volume included a shift in consumer tastes, as Americans moved away from consumption of carbonated drinks — the PET market’s largest single sector — and of bottle lightweighting, which allowed fewer grams of PET to be used in each bottle.  

The collection of more bottles, combined with the drop in bottle volume, created a positive directional trend when factored together.

The data report also provides in-depth analysis of the North American plastics recycling industry and trends impacting the market, including performance for 2012 and 2013 and the future outlook. It includes a discussion of market conditions, opportunities and threats and strategies implemented by leading post-consumer and post-industrial material recyclers.

The report also offers perspectives from industry thought leaders regarding their views on industry trends, supply and demand outlook and global growth initiatives. These perspectives include:

* Mike Biddle, founder and president, MBA Polymers Inc.

* Scott Mouw, director, North Carolina Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach

* Doug Ritchie, owner, Star Plastics

To learn more about this report and other Plastics News Reports, visit www.plasticsnews.com/data, or contact Glenn Glasberg at 330-865-6161 or gglasberg@crain.com.