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US sees robust sales but lower recycling rate for PET containers

United States – The US recycling rate for polyethylene containers dropped to 28.4% in 2016 from 30.1% in 2015, reckons the Association of Plastic Recyclers and the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR). This is the third consecutive year in which the rate has declined as well as the second successive year of decrease in the overall tonnage of PET bottles collected.

US recyclers collected around 1.75 billion pounds of PET bottles last year – down from 1.79 billion in 2015 and the ‘all-time high’ of 1.81 billion in 2014.

Once again, sales of PET bottles were described as ‘robust’ throughout 2016, with 6.172 billion pounds of containers being put on the market from 5.971 billion in the previous year.

‘This was a strong year for PET bottle growth – but another difficult year for the PET recycling industry,’ comments NAPCOR’s chairman Tom Busard. He cites low virgin resin pricing and uncertain demand in both recycled scrap and recycled PET end markets as challenges yet to be overcome.

‘Despite these obstacles,’ he adds, ‘the volume of PET collected in the United States and utilised by domestic reclaimers stayed consistent with that of 2015, and rPET used in domestic end market applications was up.’

Despite the similarity between the 28% recycling rate of 2009 and the 28.4% of 2016, last year’s PET bottle recycling weight total was around 300 million pounds more than what was collected seven years earlier.

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