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Increase in plastic film recycling and bottle recycling in USA, PET recycling stagnates in EU

Increase in plastic film recycling and bottle recycling in USA, PET recycling stagnates in EU

In USA, recycling of plastic film climbed 4% to reach 1 bln lbs (454,000 tons) annually in 2011 for the first time, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has announced. Citing findings from a report by Moore Recycling Associates, the ACC noted that film recycling has increased 55% since 2005. Due to growth in the plastic and composite lumber industry as well as growth in the primary market for US-recovered plastic film, domestic consumption of the material averaged 58% in 2011 - up from 53% the year before. The composite lumber industry continues to lead the way, experiencing a 54,000 ton increase in consumption in 2011 to account for 55% of the total market. Nearly 30% of the recovered material was used to serve 'other applications', such as garden products, crates, buckets, pallets and piping. The report says the amount of domestically reclaimed film going into the film and sheet industry 'held steady at 100-plus million pounds' - 45,000 tons or 16% of the total market. Steve Russell, VP of plastics for the ACC, was enthusiastic about the figures. 'Reaching the one-billion-pound mark is an achievement that plastics makers, recyclers and retailers can be proud of and we're continuing to work together to get that number even higher.' According to Mr Russell, there are more than 15,000 locations across the USA where consumers can bring their used polyethylene bags and wraps to be recycled. Asserting that 'in-store collection is absolutely critical', he added: 'The infrastructure is there. The plastic film industry is now working to help grocers and retailers maximise the collection of this valuable material by sharing tools and best practices and through consistent customer education.' It was concluded that while recovery was steadily increasing, many recyclers would like to see 'a substantial increase of higher-quality film' to meet their raw material needs.

Recycling of single-serve PET water bottles has 'jumped dramatically' in the USA, rising almost 20% in 2011, according to new data released by the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) and the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC). While just over 32% of plastic water bottles were recycled in 2010, the figure grew to nearly 39% in 2011 - 'and more than double the plastic water bottle recycling rate of seven years ago', NAPCOR announced. This translates into 250,000 tons of recycled material out of the 650,000 tons available on the market. The recycling success can be partly attributed to the fact that PET bottles are the most recycled beverage container in kerbside recycling programs. Further raw material savings have come through bottle design. Over the last 11 years, the average weight of a half-litre PET container has fallen by almost 48% to 9.9 grams, the BMC pointed out, saving 1.65 million tons of PET resin since 2000. 'All bottled water containers are 100% recyclable. And, when you do the math, it turns out that of all the plastics produced in the US, PET bottled water packaging makes up only 0.92%,' remarked Chris Hogan, VP of Communications for the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA). 'Moreover, plastic bottled water containers make up only one-third of 1% of the US waste stream, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.' The significant increase in the recycling rate of PET bottled water containers, coupled with the continuing decrease in container weight, 'underscores the consistent drive of the bottled water industry to improve recycling programmes and reduce its overall environmental footprint', the IBWA asserted.

To the contrary, the PET recycling industry is threatened by persistent structural market failures across Europe,' according to Brussels-based trade body Plastics Recyclers Europe (EuPR). 'On the one hand, the current collection infrastructures have reached their limit and the collection of PET bottles is stagnating around 50% whereas the balance of the uncollected PET is still landfilled or incinerated,' EuPR states. Europe is 'not maximising the sustainable use' of the valuable post-consumer PET resource, asserts Casper van den Dungen, Chairman of the EuPR's PET working group. Intensive lightweighting and complex bottle design have caused the average costs of recycling to increase substantially during the last few years. As a result, recycling plants have been forced to operate at 'well below 75% of their capacity', he says. He goes on to warn that the potential lifting of anti-dumping duties on virgin PET 'could further worsen the EU industry's position'. PET has been an 'undisputed success' and has long served as 'an example for sustainable development', according to Mr Van den Dungen. This status can be maintained 'if the collection moves upwards to another level and the virgin PET is fairly marketed'. A well-managed and balanced value chain is an essential requirement within Europe.

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