It's Easy to Recycle
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What happens to my plastic drink bottle?

There are two kinds of plastic bottles that are commonly recycled-HDPE (milk, laundry detergent) and PET bottles (water, juice, sports drinks.) Interestingly, while many people have grown used to recycling the first type of plastic, an equal number are unaware that in most communities, clear drink bottles can also be recycled. Given that bottled water, juice, and sports drinks are the fastest growing beverage categories-we are missing a huge opportunity!

That is why educating people about recycling water, sport and juice bottles is the first emphasis of the "It's Easy to Recycle" coalition.

Domestic capacity to reclaim plastic bottles significantly exceeds recycled quantities, stressing the need to reinvigorate community collection programs.


Recycled Plastic Percentages:

The challenge at hand:

  •  In the past decade, carbonated soft drink bottle sales have more than doubled from 12 billion units to over 28 billion and bottled water sales have grown from 3.3 billion units in 1997 to 26 billion in 2005.
  • Unfortunately, PET bottle rates dropped from a high of 39% in 1995 to just 19.6 percent in 2004.

Source: U.S. Beverage Container Recycling Scorecard and Report

Not all of the news on recycled plastics is discouraging! In fact,

  • Over 1.5 billion pounds of post-consumer plastic bottles are recycled each year, accounting for 22 percent (by weight) of all plastic bottles produced in the United States.
  • 95% of all plastic bottles in the United States market are manufactured from PET or HDPE (48% and 47% respectively).
  • More than 20,000 communities, 63 percent of the nation's total, are estimated to have access to a community recycling program (curbside or drop-off) that collects plastics.
  • Since 1990, the number of processing facilities in the post-consumer plastics recycling industry has grown by 81 percent

Source: APC's 1999 National Post-Consumer Plastics Recycling Study, R.W. Beck, Inc.

Markets for Recycled Plastics

  • 56% of recycled water, juice and sport drink bottles find a market in the manufacture of fiber (carpet and clothing).
  • Other large markets for recycled drink bottles are for strapping (13%) and new containers (14% -food and non-food).
  • 29% of recycled milk and laundry detergent bottles go into making new bottles.
  • The plastic pipe industry consumes 18% of the recycled milk and laundry bottles
  • Other strong markets for HDPE (milk and laundry bottles) are for lawn and garden products (such as edging), plastic lumber (decks, benches, picnic tables), film and sheet, and a variety of injection molding products (buckets, crates and automobile parts).

Source: APC's 1999 National Post-Consumer Plastics Recycling Study, R.W. Beck, Inc..

Plastic Recycling Information Resources:

More on plastics recycling can be found at PlasticsResource.Com