Here are some quick facts about plastic recycling

In the United States, 8.5% of all plastic production was recycled during 2018. This percentage varies by product category. 13.1% of plastic packaging and containers was recycled.

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  • In Europe, 30% of all plastic waste is currently recycled.
  • In 2018, Americans recycled 3.02 Million Tons of Plastics, up from 3,000,000 in 2017.
  • Around 50% of the plastics we currently use are thrown away after one use.
  • In 2016, plastics accounted to 12% of global waste generation.
  • It can take plastics hundreds of years for them to break down

Plastics end up in oceans as small pieces, and each year approximately 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds die from this pollution.

The Plastic Recycling Process

Plastic recycling is as simple as collecting, sorting and shredding. Based on the type of plastic product or plastic resin, the actual processes will vary.

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The two-step process is used by most plastic recycling facilities:

  • Step 1: Sort the plastics manually or automatically to remove all contaminants from the waste stream.
  • Step 2: Remelting plastics into new shapes or shredding them into flakes before melting them down.

The Most Recent Advances in Plastic Recycling

The plastic recycling process has become easier and more economical thanks to ongoing innovations in recycling technology. These technologies include sophisticated recognition and decision-making software as well as reliable detectors that increase the accuracy and productivity of automated sorting of plastics.

Another innovation in plastic recycling is the discovery of higher-value applications for recycled polymers through closed-loop processes. For example, PET sheets used for thermoforming in the UK may contain between 50 percent and 70 percent recycled PET by using A/B/A layers sheets.

Some European countries, including Germany, Spain and Norway, have started collecting rigid packaging like pots, tubs and trays. They also collect a small amount of post-consumer flexible packing. Recent improvements in washing technology and sorting techniques have made it possible to recycle non-bottle packaging.

The Plastic Recycling Industry’s Challenges

Plastic recycling is faced with many challenges. These include mixed plastics and difficult-to-remove residuals. Recycling mixed plastic streams is one of the most difficult challenges facing the industry. Experts believe plastic packaging and other plastic products can help overcome this problem.

Recycling post-consumer flexible packaging can be a problem. It is difficult to separate the materials efficiently and effectively in most material recovery facilities.

Plastic Recycling Laws

In several states in the United States, programs that encourage or require recycling of plastic bottles were established, including California, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Follow the links to view the details of each state’s plastic recycling laws.

Look Ahead

Effective end-of-life plastic management requires recycling. The increased recycling rates are due to greater public awareness and improved recycling operations. Continual investment in research-and-development will help to improve operational efficiency.

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Plastic Recycling Industry Associations

The plastic recycling industry associations promote plastic recycling by allowing members to establish and maintain relationships with plastic recyclers and lobbying government to create the best environment possible for the industry.

The Association of Plastic Recyclers: APR is the international association for plastic recycling. It is made up of plastic recycling companies of all sizes, as well as plastic equipment manufacturers and testing laboratories. These companies are committed to the success and advancement of plastic recycling. APR offers a variety of education programs that inform its members about the most recent plastic recycling technologies and developments.

Plastics Recyclers Europe, (PRE), was established in 1996. It represents European plastic recyclers. It currently has 120 members from across Europe. PRE organizes annual meetings and plastic recycling shows to allow its members to discuss current developments and challenges in the industry.

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Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries: ISRI is a Washington DC-based organization that represents more than 1600 companies, from small businesses to large corporations. These include processors and brokers, as well as equipment and key service providers in the scrap recycling sector.