In celebration of America Recycles Day on Nov. 15, Packaging Digest takes stock of the latest recycling statistics for plastic, glass, metal, paperboard, flexible packaging and two other surprise areas, courtesy of the leading organizations that track the numbers.
Looking at the big picture, we recycled or composted nearly 87 million tons of the 251 million tons of trash generated in 2012, according to the most recent numbers from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This equates to a 34.5% overall recycling rate, which gives us a baseline of comparison (albeit not for direct comparison because of the different years represented).
Let’s take a dive into the numbers for packaging materials. First up…
Plastic bottles and other rigid plastic packaging
In 2014, Americans recycled nearly 32% or more than 3 billion pounds of post-consumer plastic bottles, according to the 2014 United States National Postconsumer Plastics Bottle Recycling Report from the Plastics Div. of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and The Assn. of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR).
Of that, 1,812 million pounds were polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and jars, which represents 31% of the PET containers produced, according to the Report on Postconsumer PET Container Recycling Activity in 2014 from the National Assn. for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) and The Assn. of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR).
High-density polyethylene and polypropylene bottles also saw an increase in recycling rates in 2014, with HDPE bottles at 33% and PP bottles at 45%.
What about other non-bottle types of plastic packaging? In 2013, more than 1 billion pounds of post-consumer non-bottle rigid plastic was reported as recovered for recycling, according to the 2013 National Postconsumer Non-Bottle Rigid Plastic Recycling Report.