America's anemic plastics recycling rate has further deteriorated.
But one industry supporter is pointing to changes he believes will ultimately boost those numbers.
New statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show that the amount of plastics recycled fell by nearly 6 percent in tonnage from 2015 to 2017.
Word of the decrease, from 9.1 percent of the total plastic generated in 2015 to 8.4 percent in 2017, comes as there is an ever-increasing focus and discussion on material and the role it should play in society.
As debate rages, there are market conditions that impact the numbers.
China's National Sword initiative essentially closed that country's borders to all types of scrap imports as officials looked to promote domestic recycling and crack down on sometimes questionable recycling practices.
With this key outlet for recycled plastics essentially eliminated, exporters from the United States and other countries have had to adapt to new market conditions. China was once very forgiving regarding the quality of materials it took in for recycling. But an earlier effort by China to clean up those recycling streams dubbed Green Fence and the subsequent National Sword program have forced recyclers to rethink their approach or go out of business.
A total of 34.5 million tons of plastics were generated in 2015, with 3.14 million tons recycled, according to EPA. That translates to a 9.1 percent recycling rate. Another 5.35 tons, or 15.5 percent, were burned for energy and 26 million tons, or 75.4 percent, were landfilled.
Plastics critics have long cited the 9.1 percent recycling rate, and industry supporters have said the number shows there's room for improvement and growth.