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US bottle recycling ‘strong’ in 2016, but down 2.4%

United States – Over 2.9 billion pounds worth of plastic bottles were recycled in the US last year, according to figures released jointly by the Association of Plastic Recyclers and the American Chemistry Council.

Plastic bottle recycling in the US ‘remained strong’ in 2016, but declined slightly, slipping 2.4% compared to the previous year. This means that the overall recycling rate for plastic was 29.7% in 2016, down from 31.1% in 2015.

In 2016, PET recycling decreased by 44 million pounds. The collection of high-density polyethylene bottles, which includes bottles for milk, household cleaners, and detergents, fell by 31.7 million pounds (2.8%) to just over 1.1 billion pounds for the year.

The recycling rate for HDPE bottles slipped from 34.4% to 33.4%.

New data also revealed that the collection of polypropylene bottles rose nearly 15.3% to reach 36.6 million pounds, as the PP collection rate climbed to over 20%. The five-year compounded annual growth rate for plastic bottle recycling in general was 2.1%.

Following more than 20 consecutive years of growth, factors that contributed to the recent decline include a small drop in material collected for recycling, changing export markets, lightweighting and increased contamination of recyclables.

‘Some US recyclers are seeing these short-term challenges as opportunities to innovate and invest in our plastics recycling infrastructure,’ comments Steve Alexander, president of APR. ‘The key to continued growth lies in improving our sorting and collection technologies to deliver consistent, high-quality yields that strengthen our global competitiveness,’ he points out.

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