Plastics Recycling Remains Low

Plastic is one of the fastest growing parts of the waste stream and among the most expensive discarded material to manage. The plastics recycling rate of 6.9% is the lowest of all major materials (compared to 51.6% for paper, 36.3% for metals, and 21.8% for glass). [US Environmental Protection Agency, Municipal Solid Waste in the United States, 2006 Facts and Figures, www.epa.gov/osw.] In 1960, single-use plastic packaging was 0.14% of the waste stream (120,000 tons). In less than one generation, it has grown to 5.7% and 14,230,000 tons per year [US EPA, 2006 data].

Plastic Packaging Discarded, in thousands of tons


Plastics Recycling Low

Generation
(thousand tons)
Recycling
(thousand tons)
Recycling Level
(percent by weight)
PET
3,760
680
18.1%
HDPE
5,650
570
10.1%
PVC
1,660
0
0.0%
LDPE/LLDPELDPE
6,400
310
4.8%
PP
4,570
10
0.2%
PS
2,620
00
0.8%
Other resins
6,070
500
8.2%
Total Plastics in MSW
30,730
2,090
6.8%

Source: US EPA, 2007 data
Key: PET = polyethylene terephthalate, HDPE = high density polyethylene, PVC = polyvinyl chloride,
PS = polystyrene, LDPE = low density polyethylene, PP = polypropylene, PS = polystyrene