US demand for post-consumer recycled plastics is forecast to rise 5.9% pa to 3.4 bln lbs in 2016. Gains will be driven by a number of factors, including a growing emphasis on sustainability among packaging and consumer product manufacturers, advancements in processing and sorting technologies allowing a wider variety of plastic to be recycled, and an improved collection infrastructure that raises the plastic recycling rate, as per Reportlinker. Continued support by federal, state, and local governments for recycling efforts will also provide a significant boost to recycled plastic collection, processing, and demand. However, the overall rate of plastic recycling in the US will remain relatively low -- 6.5% of total plastic demand in 2016 -- as the industry faces a number of challenges. Recycling is minimal in several major plastic markets, including construction products, motor vehicles (other than batteries), and packaging film, due to a lack of collection capability or economical processing. Export sales (particularly to China) siphon off a substantial portion of plastic scrap, and much of what is processed domestically has high levels of contamination. As a result, only 53% of the plastic collected for recycling makes its way to manufactured products in the US market.
Bottles will remain the leading source of plastic for recycling, accounting for about half of all plastic collected in 2016. The well established collection infrastructure, including deposit laws in several states, makes bottles one of the most widely recycled plastic products. More rapid gains, however, are forecast for other sources, particularly rigid plastics, film, and carpet. The recycling industry has put significant efforts into increasing the collection of rigid plastic, including thermoformed packaging and bulk containers, particularly at the commercial level. Bag and film recycling will also be bolstered by private industry collection initiatives, as these are a key source of raw materials for plastic bag and woodplastic composite producers.
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) were the two leading resins used in recycled plastic products in 2011, accounting for over 70% of demand. While PET will see above average gains in demand, fueled by rising recycled content in beverage bottles and thermoformed containers, subpar increases in HDPE collection will limit demand for recycled resin. The most rapid growth is forecast for low density polyethylene, which will benefit from a rebound in the construction market, as well as smaller volume resins such as polypropylene and nylon. Packaging will continue to be the leading market for recycled plastic in 2016, with strongest gains expected for food and beverage bottles and clamshell containers, fueled by rising production of recycled resins suitable for food contact uses.