Plastics Recycling Rate Falls in the US

Plastics Recycling Rate Falls in the US

A new report estimates that the rate was 5 to 6 percent in 2021, down from 2018.

A report reveals some startling data about the recycling plastic rate in the United States.

According to Beyond Plastics, a project at Bennington College with a goal to end plastics pollution, the plastics recycling rate in 2021 fell to just 5 to 6 percent. The other 94 percent of unrecycled plastic could end up polluting our planet.

The EPA estimated that the plastics recycling rate in 2018 was 8.7 percent. The agency has not published data since 2020.

According to a report from The Last Beach Cleanup and Beyond Plastics, the 5 to 6 percent estimates are calculated by determining the “weight of plastic waste recycled” and dividing it by the “weight of total plastic waste generated."

Since 1980, the amount of plastic waste per person has been increasing, the EPA reported. In 1980, the individual average of plastic waste was 60 pounds per person per year. In 2018, that number was 218.

Although plastic recycling is down, by more than 2 percent in three years, paper recycling is up, according to the report. In 1980, the rate of paper recycling was just 21.3 percent. In 2018, it increased to 68.2 percent.

About the Author

Alex Saurman is the Content Editor for Environmental Protection.