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Plastic packaging recycling continues to grow in Canada

For the third year in a row, the amount of post-consumer plastic packaging being recycled across Canada has increased. An additional 10% of plastic packaging was recycled in 2012 compared to 2011 as reported by Moore Recycling Associates Inc.

This increase is the result of more material collected for recycling as well as more companies providing recycling information, according to the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA). In total, more than 285 million kilograms of post-consumer plastic packaging was collected for recycling in Canada.

The results are derived from an extensive survey of companies that handle recycled plastics in North America. These companies are made up of manufacturers, re-claimers, exporters, brokers and MRFs (Material Recovery Facilities).

"We are pleased to see an overall increase in companies participating in this valuable survey and in the amount of plastic packaging collected and recycled in Canada. The survey results found that 285 million kilograms were recycled and of that, 83% stayed here in North America. We continue to work with our members to build and grow our national recycling industry in Canada, re-using valuable plastic materials and creating jobs" says Carol Hochu, president and CEO of the CPIA, in anews release. 

Plastic packaging collected for recycling includes plastic bottles, non-bottle rigid plastics such as deli and dairy containers, bakery, vegetable, fruit containers, and plastic film, bags and outer wrap. These resources are reused to make, for example, fleece jackets, new plastic bottles, pipe, pallets, crates and buckets, decking and other lawn and garden products.

The plastic recycled quantities reported for 2012 by Moore and Associates Inc. compared to 2011 represent an increase of 3% for bottles (for a total of 174.7 million kilograms), an increase of 29% for non-bottle rigids (for a total of 35.6 million kilograms), an increase of 18% for plastic bags and outer wrap (for a total of almost 44 million kilograms) and an increase of 24% for polystyrene foam (for a total of 926,000 kilograms).

At the same time, the survey notes that Canadian recyclers of plastics want more supply; they have underutilized capacity creating ample opportunity for consumers and businesses to supply recyclers with more plastics. It is estimated that the film and bag recycling capacity in Canada increased from 38% to 49% utilization of the capacity and non- bottle rigid recycling capacity went from 47% to 60% capacity utilization. As you can see, there is plenty of room to increase plastics recycling. 

Any increase in recycling is good news for the industry, but at the same time, the 10% increase is not as high as compared to recent years.  

The recycling of plastic packaging and other plastic products in Canada increased by 24% in 2011 compared to 2010. And another report claimed an additional 15% of plastic packaging was recycled in 2010 compared to 2009 across Canada.

Here is the conclusion from the most recent study:

Postconsumer plastic recycling reported for Canada was 285 million kilograms, an increase of 26 million kilograms from 2011. These numbers are conservative, but the data shows the vast majority of the material collected for recycling in Canada is staying in Canada for reclamation and remanufacture. There are opportunities to improve the quality of MRF bales and the quantity of what is collected in Canada-notably bulky rigid plastic, commercial rigid plastics and commercial film-but overall, the plastic recycling industry in Canada is growing. Strong support of sustainability goals in Canada has led to domestic markets for all plastic scrap types and a low dependence on the export market.

— Heather Caliendo  

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