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US film recycling numbers make a dramatic drop

US film recycling numbers make a dramatic drop (Plastic News)

  • Following China’s implementation of the National Sword Program against a wide range of recycled imports in 2017, post-consumer plastic film recycling in the US dropped 315m pounds in 2017, bringing it back to 2011 levels.
  • The report (published by More Recycling Inc. for the American Chemistry Council) indicates that exports fell by 46% yoy, representing 38% of the total collected for recycling, while domestic use (reprocessing in the US and Canada) accounted for 62%.
  • Prior to the drop, film recycling had been growing for 12 years. While non-bottle rigid recycling also declined (-7%), both categories actually saw a 2% uptick in domestic purchases of the recycled materials.

Analysis and Comments

  • It is worth noting that because participation in the surveys that collected the above data is voluntary, the amounts cited in the reports are likely understating the total non-bottle rigid and film plastic acquired for recycling.
  • Regardless, the 2% increase in domestic purchases of post-consumer recovered film (i.e. plastic bags, wrap, and film) represents the largest increase since the report was first compiled in 2005, showcasing the growing demand for recycled material.
  • However, the fundamental challenges associated with domestically recycling plastic film remain due to the decade-long reliance on export buyers, with the majority of the domestic reclamation capacity focused on clean, dry PE film or single resin material.
  • As a result, the US is not well positioned to process the large and ever-growing amount of material available for recycling.
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