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US plastic film recycling hits billion-pound mark

United States – The recycling of plastic film climbed 4% to reach one billion pounds (454 000 tonnes) 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-tonne 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 tonnes 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,’ he said.

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.’

Moore Recycling Associates 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.

The data is based on recovery data from 19 US and three Canadian processors of post-consumer film and 37 companies that export post-consumer film.

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