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Plastic bottle recycling rises as plastic bottle usage drops

Americans recycled more plastics bottles in 2009 for the 20th straight year, although the overall recycling rate remains at just 28%. The amount of bottles recycled rose 46 million lb (2%) in 2009, hitting a record 2.5 billion lb, according to figures released by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Assn. of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR).

Americans recycled more plastics bottles in 2009 for the 20th straight year, although the overall recycling rate remains at just 28%. The amount of bottles recycled rose 46 million lb (2%) in 2009, hitting a record 2.5 billion lb, according to figures released by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Assn. of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR). Total amounts remain below the pre-recession and pre-thinwalling levels, but some materials did see significant increases over 2008 totals.

Polypropylene (PP) bottle recycling rose 27% to 27 million lb, although PP bottles only hold 2.2% of the market, compared to 96.3% for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles.

Greater collection of bottles also meant greater use of recycled material in the cases of PET and PP, although HDPE use fell. Processing of domestic and imported recycled PET rose by 22 million lb in 2009, with PP up 9 million lb. Use of recycled HDPE, however, dropped by 76 million lb.

Overall, plastic bottle recycling has risen approximately 60% since 2000, when 1.5 billion lb were collected, and is up nearly 400% since the survey was began in 1990.

The confluence of a depressed economy, lightweighting, and a shift to concentrates in items like detergents continued the reduction is bottle resin that began in 2008. The total amount of resin used to make plastic bottles fell by 1% or 85 million lb. HDPE fell by 130 million lb, or 4.0%, while PET shrank 217 million lb, or 4.0%.

Per capita bottle consumption also fell for the second consecutive year, a product of plastic bottle backlash and the economic recession. Peaking at around 32 lb in 2007, U.S. per capita bottle consumption now sits at about 27 lb. 

U.S. Post-Consumer Plastic Bottle Recycling

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