Environmental Protection

Access to Plastics Recycling More Widespread Than Previously Believed

A study released today by Moore Recycling Associates Inc. found that a much larger portion of the U.S. population has ready access to recycle commonly used plastics than previously believed. Specifically the study, "Plastics Recycling Collection: National Reach Study," found that 94 percent of Americans have access to recycle plastic bottles and 40 percent of the population also can recycle other types of plastic containers, such as yogurt cups, dairy tubs and lids.

Although the study surveyed nearly 2,500 communities across the United States, it found that within the 100 largest cities, the percentage of the population with access to recycle plastic containers in addition to bottles has nearly doubled since 2008.

The study did not look at recycling film plastics – a category that includes plastic bags and many product wraps –but it is well documented that these materials are collected separately at more than 12,000 locations across the country.  

"We are thrilled that so many consumers have access to plastics recycling in their communities," said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council. "The next step is to increase awareness, so that more people take advantage of this opportunity to do something good for our environment and for the businesses that depend on this valuable material."

Recyclers, typically small community-based businesses, rely on consumers to recover a steady supply of used plastics, such as assorted bottles, containers, bags and wraps.  Recycled plastics can be made into a variety of innovative products, including soft T-shirts, durable backyard decks, storage containers, car parts, decorative moldings and other home building products, cutting boards, and even fashionable hand bags.

The study also noted that it is more effective to communicate which plastics are recycled in various communities by listing shapes (e.g., bottles, tubs, trays, lids, etc.) than by listing resin codes (numbers 1-7), which can be confusing.

Below are some tips to make it easier to recycle more of the plastics we use every day:

Bottles: For recycling purposes, a bottle is any container with a neck or an opening that's smaller than its base.  Include the following wherever plastic bottles are recycled:

  • Milk jugs
  • Beverage bottles (e.g., water, soft drinks, juice and beer)
  • Bottles from shampoo, toiletries, laundry detergent and other household cleaners
  • Salad dressing, cooking oil and condiment bottles
  • Food jars, such as peanut butter and mayonnaise
  • Tip: Twist caps back on before placing in the recycling bin; recyclers want those, too!

Containers:  Include the following wherever containers, tubs and/or lids are recycled:

  • Yogurt cups
  • Butter tubs
  • Deli containers
  • Dairy containers
  • Frozen food trays
  • Produce containers (hinged or lidded)
  • Lids

Bags and Wraps: Clean and dry plastic bags and wraps should be returned to grocery and retail stores for recycling instead of being placed in curbside bins. Include the following wherever plastic bags are recycled:

  • Grocery bags
  • Retail bags (remove hard plastic or string handles)
  • Newspaper bags
  • Dry cleaning bags (remove paper and hangers)
  • Bread bags (with crumbs shaken out)
  • Produce bags
  • Sealable and non-sealable food storage bags
  • Product wraps from paper towels, bathroom tissue, napkins, bulk beverages, and diapers
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