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Study: More than 70% of Americans can recycle plastic bags and wraps locally

First, Canada had its say about access to plastics recycling. Next up: the United States. More than 91% of the U.S. population can recycle their plastic bags locally, and additionally, nearly 75% of people living in the U.S. can recycle other types of flexible plastic wraps in their own communities, according to a new study conducted by Moore Recycling Associates Inc.

First, Canada had its say about access to plastics recycling. Next up: the United States.

More than 91% of the U.S. population can recycle their plastic bags locally, and additionally, nearly 75% of people living in the U.S. can recycle other types of flexible plastic wraps in their own communities, according to a new study conducted by Moore Recycling Associates Inc.

The study, which looked at flexible polyethylene film, a category that includes flexible plastic bags, sacks and many product wraps, identified more than 15,000 drop-off locations that collect these items for recycling. The majority of collection centers are located in stores, frequently major grocery chains or retailers like Target and Lowe's home improvement stores.

This study is believed to be the first to examine consumers' access to recycle flexible plastic packaging. A separate study released earlier this year found that the recycling of flexible plastics increased 50% over the last five years to reach nearly 1 billion pounds annually in the U.S.

The study found that despite the prevalence of access to flexible plastic recycling programs, consumers are not yet using this infrastructure to its full potential, according to the news release.

"Plastic bags and wraps are a valuable resource that should be recycled after use," stated Steve Russell, vp of plastics for the American Chemistry Council, in the news release. "We're thrilled that so many Americans have access to recycling, and we look forward to working to increase consumer awareness, so we can recycle even more of this material."

The flexible plastics value chain recently came together to form the Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG), which is applying industry resources to boost consumer education; labeling of bags, films and wraps with recycling information; and infrastructure expansion.

"Education is the next critical step," Russell said. "Awareness and convenience are key to changing behavior, and we frequently see that when awareness meets convenience, consumers are very willing to recycle their plastics."

To help increase awareness among consumers, the FFRG is working with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition to develop a "Store Drop-off" label specifically for flexible plastic packaging.

This announcement follows the recent news out of Canada regarding a study about consumer access to plastics recycling. 

The findings showed that Canadians have about 95% access to plastic bottle recycling and 91% access to recycling of household tubs and lids used for yogurt containers and other dairy products, up from 88% in 2009, according to a report prepared for the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) by CM Consulting. Non-foam polystyrene access is at 44%, and access to recycling of plastic bags and other films is estimated at 56%.

TAGS: Packaging
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