U.S. demand high for post-consumer recycled plastics

06 December 2012

U.S. demand for post-consumer recycled plastic is forecast to rise 6.5% per year to 3.5 billion pounds 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 into high-quality resins, and an improved collection infrastructure which raises the plastic recycling rate.
Continued support by federal, state and local governments for recycling efforts will also provide a significant boost to recycled plastic collection, processing and demand.
Packaging will continue to be the leading market for recycled plastic in 2016. Bottles will remain the leading source of plastic for recycling, accounting for more than half of all plastic collected in 2016.
These and other trends are presented in Recycled Plastics, a new study from The Freedonia Group Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.The overall rate of plastic recycling in the U.S. will remain relatively low—less than 7% 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 (mostly 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 about half of the plastic collected for recycling makes its way to manufactured products in the U.S. market (Packaging Digest News, 5 December 2012).