The recycling of plastic film climbed 4% to reach 1 billion pounds annually in 2011 for the first time, according to the recently released “2011 National Postconsumer Plastic Bag & Film Recycling Report.” The category of “plastic film” includes plastic bags, product wraps, and commercial shrink film. The report, developed by Moore Recycling Associates, Inc. on behalf of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), noted that the recycling of plastic film has grown 55% since just 2005.
According to the report, approximately 58% of U.S.-recovered postconsumer film was consumed domestically in 2011—up from 53% in 2010—largely due to growth in the plastic and composite lumber industry, the primary market for this material. The composite lumber industry showed a 120 million-pound increase in consumption from 2010 to 2011 to reach 55% of the total market for recovered film. Consumption of postconsumer plastic film by the film and sheet industry, the second largest market for this material, held steady at 100 million pounds, or 16% of the total market.
Recycled polyethylene film is used to make a range of products, including durable plastic and composite lumber for outdoor decks and fencing, home building products, garden products, crates, pipe, and new film packaging like plastic bags.
Recovery data in the report is based on a survey of 19 U.S. and three Canadian processors of postconsumer film along with 37 companies that export this material.
Through ACC’s Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG), which represents resin producers, film converters, brand owners, and recyclers, the industry is actively working to increase both commercial and consumer participation in the film recycling process.
“Reaching the one-billion-pound mark is an achievement that plastics makers, recyclers, and retailers can be proud of,” says Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for ACC, “and we’re continuing to work together to get that number even higher.”
There are currently more than 15,000 locations where consumers can bring their used PE bags and wraps to be recycled, primarily at large grocery and retail chains across the U.S.
“In-store collection is absolutely critical for recycling plastic bags, wraps, and other flexible film packaging,” says Russell. “The infrastructure is there. The plastic film industry is now working to help grocers and retailers maximize the collection of this valuable material by sharing tools and best practices and through consistent customer education.”