When Plastics News set out to compile its first sales-based ranking of recyclers and brokers, it was up against the usual obstacles.
The first step was getting our one-page survey form to the right companies. We mailed the survey to 126 post-consumer plastic recyclers listed in last year's Market Data Book, plus about 50 more firms not included in that listing. Other companies responded to a notice on our editorial page asking all recyclers and brokers to participate.
The next task was coaxing companies to provide capacity, volume and recycling sales figures. Most firms were helpful; some, fearful of their competition, simply would not break those numbers out. Large or diversified corporations found it difficult to distinguish recycling-related figures from other business segments. But sources such as industry consultants, annual reports and other Securities and Exchange Commission filings helped fill in the blanks.
The result may be an industry first: a ranking of 187 recyclers and brokers based on sales.
In addition, the collected data should offer insight into how the recycling market operates and why those involved in the industry cannot always be neatly categorized.
The ranking also delivered some unexpected results. Surprisingly, of the total respondents, 46 firms indicated they reprocess post-consumer and post-industrial material in addition to brokering. Further, the number of recyclers that specialize in either post-consumer or post-industrial resin is remarkably low — just 18 recycle only post-consumer resin and 24 strictly reprocess scrap. But 112 companies recycle both.
In all, 204 companies responded to the survey, including firms that buy recycled material to make an end product. Though we collected information from about two dozen such firms, we could not rank them since they do not report recycling-related sales.