Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Increases to 830 Million Pounds

Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Increases to 830 Million Pounds

As cities, states and businesses contemplate cutting out plastic bags or charging fees to lower their use, the amount of plastic bags and film being recycled continues to grow, according to an American Chemistry Council report.

Research by Moore Recycling Associates found that more than 830 million pounds of post-consumer plastic bags and film were collected for recycling in 2007, almost 20 million pounds more than the previous year. When compared to 2005, though, when 652 million pounds was collected, the amount of plastic film collected has gone up by 27 percent.

The 2007 report was the third annual look at the domestic and export markets for post-consumer plastic film. One of the biggest changes in the past year was the amount of film being exported, which jumped from about one-fourth to half of the total material collected. The report notes that exporters were outbidding domestic processors, and more processors in China turned to recycled plastic due to high prices for virgin materials.

The American Chemistry Council notes that its figures are likely conservative, and points out that the number of bag collection programs have increased dramatically at retailers, making it easier for consumers to dispose of bags. Plastic bags made up 15 percent of the film recovered in 2007, with stretch film accounting for 84 percent of the total. The remaining one percent came from agricultural film.

San Francisco is one of the few U.S. cities that has banned the use of plastic bags, and while many other cities and states are looking at or proposing a range of bans, fees or other programs, many are stalling for a number of reasons, the New York Times reports.

Moore Recycling Associates has also conducted its first recycling review of non-bottle rigid plastics, looking at a variety of plastic packaging and non-packaging like yogurt tubs, plastic cups, food trays, pallets, crates, carts, buckets and more.

In 2007, at 325 million pounds of post-consumer rigid plastic was recovered, with about two-thirds being exported. The rest that remained in the U.S. was turned into new products like crates, pallets, composite lumber and gardening products.

Grocery bags - photo CC license by Justin Ruckman