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Non-bottle recycling tops 1 billion pounds in the U.S.

By: Jim Johnson

March 11, 2014

ORLANDO, FLA. — Non-bottle rigid plastics recycling continues on its meteoric rise, topping a billion pounds for the first time and tripling in only a matter of six years.

New statistics from a study commissioned by the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council also show that rigid plastic recycling increased by 10 percent from 2011 to 2012, hitting a total of 1.02 billion pounds.

That’s three times the total of the amount of rigid plastics recycled in 2007 when the industry first started tracking such numbers, said the ACC, a trade group.

Non-bottle rigid plastics includes items such as toys, tubs, cups, caps, lids, crates, buckets, automobile parts, pipe, and lawn and garden products.

Steve Alexander, executive director of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, called the increase amazing.

“In a short period of time, rigids have become the fastest growing category of plastics recycling, and we are excited about the future,” Alexander said in a statement.

Rigid plastic recycling has exploded in recent years as it has become easier for people to find a second life for their discards.

The growing popularity of single-stream recycling around the country, and the associated larger carts that are being provided for this all-in-one recycling, is allowing folks additional room to put more and larger rigid plastic items in the recycling stream.

“The increasing popularity of large bins and access to single-stream collection programs are making it easy for consumers to recycle their used plastics,” said Steve Russell, ACC's vice president of plastics, in a statement.

Polypropylene accounted 38 percent of the post-consumer plastics collected while high-density polyethylene made up 34 percent, according to the 2012 National Report on Postconsumer Non-Bottle Rigid Plastic Recycling.