US RECYCLED PLASTICS
Demand to reach 1.54m t in 2016 / Bottles remain largest source for recycling / PET and HDPE are leading resins / LDPE forecast to see highest growth
US demand for post-consumer recycled plastics is forecast to rise by 5.9% annually, reaching 1.54m t in 2016, according to a recently published report “Recycled plastics” from market researcher Freedonia (Cleveland, Ohio / USA; www.freedoniagroup.com). The researcher said that gains will be driven by a number of factors, including a growing emphasis on sustainability among packaging and consumer product manufacturers, advancements in processing and sorting technologies allowing a wider variety of plastic to be recycled, as well as improved collection leading to increased plastic recycling rates.

Continued support by federal, state, and local governments in the US for recycling efforts will also provide a significant boost to recycled plastic collection, processing and demand, Freedonia said. However, the overall rate of plastic recycling in the US will remain relatively low – 6.5% of total plastic demand in 2016 – as the industry faces a number of challenges. By contrast, the packaging recycling rate in Europe is about 34%, the rate for other plastic products however slighly lower (see Plasteurope.com of 15.11.2012).

Recycling is minimal in several major plastic markets, including construction products, motor vehicles (other than batteries), and packaging film, due to a lack of collection capability or economical processing. Additionally, export sales, particularly to China, take a substantial portion of plastic scrap and much of what is processed domestically has high levels of contamination. As a result, only 53% of the plastic collected for recycling is ultimately used in manufactured products in the US market.

Bottles will remain the leading source of plastic for recycling, accounting for about half of all plastic collected in 2016. The well established collection infrastructure, including deposit laws in several states, makes bottles one of the most widely recycled plastic products. More rapid gains, however, are forecast for other sources, particularly rigid plastics, film and carpet. The recycling industry has put significant efforts into increasing the collection of rigid plastic, including thermoformed packaging and bulk containers, particularly at the commercial level. Bag and film recycling will also be boosted by private industry collection initiatives, as these are an important source of raw materials for plastic bag and wood plastic composite producers, the researcher forecasts.



PET and HDPE were the two leading resins used in recycled plastic products in 2011, accounting for over 70% of demand. While PET will see above average gains in demand, fuelled by rising recycled content in beverage bottles and thermoformed containers, below average increases in HDPE collection will limit demand for recycled resin, the report says. The most rapid growth is forecast for LDPE, which will benefit from a recovery in the construction market, as well as smaller volume resins such as polypropylene and nylon.

Packaging will continue to be the leading market for recycled plastic in 2016, with strongest gains expected for food and beverage bottles and clamshell containers, fuelled by rising production of recycled resins suitable for food contact uses. A rebound in US construction activity will drive strong demand for recycled plastics in construction product markets, particularly lumber and pipe applications. While advances in the motor vehicle market will be limited by the mature battery segment, use of recycled plastic in fabrics and other vehicle interior applications is expected to increase strongly.
12.12.2012 Plasteurope.com [224101-0]
Published on 12.12.2012

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