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Bottles remain ‘leading’ plastics recycling source

United States – Owing mainly to a growing emphasis on sustainability in the packaging sector, as well as notable processing and sorting advancements, US demand for post-consumer plastic will rise 6.5% per year to 3.5 billion pounds by 2016, according to the latest study from the Freedonia Group Inc.

Packaging will continue to be the leading market for recycled plastic in 2016, the Cleveland-based industry market research firm points out. It heralds bottles as the leading source for recycled plastics, putting PET at the top of the list on 37% of total demand by 2016, followed by high-density polyethylene (HDPE) on 33%, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) on 14% and polypropylene on 11%.

PET will see ‘€˜above-average gains in demand’€™, fuelled by rising recycled content in beverage bottles and thermoformed containers, says the study. Meanwhile, ‘€˜sub-par increases’€™ in HDPE collection will limit demand for recycled resin. The most rapid growth, according to the Freedonia Group, will occur in the LDPE market which will benefit from ‘€˜a rebound in the construction market’€™.

A surge in growth is also expected for smaller-volume resins such as polypropylene and nylon due to increased collections of products such as carpet, plastic foam and consumer electronics for recycling. In motor vehicles, use of recycled plastic in fabrics and other interior applications will increase at a robust pace, notes the Freedonia Group.

However, the overall rate of plastics recycling in the USA will remain ‘€˜relatively low’€™ – at 6.5% of total plastic demand in 2016 – as the industry ‘€˜faces a number of challenges’€™, states the report. It argues that recycling is minimal in several major plastic markets, including construction products, motor vehicles (other than batteries) and packaging film. This is attributed to a lack of collection capability or economical processing.

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