U.S. Plastic Bags, Film Recycling Up 24% in 2006

Plastic bags and film recycling increased significantly across the United States in 2006, reaching a record high and validating a growing national recycling trend. The dramatic increase in recycling is in part driven by greater demand for recycled plastic and increased recycling of plastic grocery bags.

An estimated 812,010,000 pounds of post-consumer film (including plastic bags) was recovered in 2006, according to the 2006 National Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic Bags and Film Report conducted by Moore Recycling Associates, Inc. of Sonoma, Calif. This represents a 24 percent increase from 652,477,000 pounds recovered in 2005.

"More Americans are recycling plastic bags and film than ever before, driven by a growing recognition that plastic is a valuable resource -- too valuable to waste," said Steve Russell, managing director for ACC's Plastics Division.

"Over the past several years, Trex has processed and used a tremendous amount of recycled plastic and that demand has led us to partner with the public and private sector on innovative recycling programs," said Dave Heglas of TREX, a northern Virginia company that uses recycled plastic bags to manufacture green building materials. "We have recycled over 2.5 billion pounds of plastic over the last 10 years into lumber substitutes for outdoor decks."

The value of recycled plastic is leading to new innovations in the bag industry too. Hilex Poly, a leading plastic bag manufacturer, established a program that recycles old bags into new ones called Bag-2-Bag®. Last year Hilex recycled the equivalent of 400 million bags and reduced the use of new material by 8 million pounds.

This increase in recycling is expected to continue or accelerate, in large part due to the greater prevalence of plastic bag recycling; and as more retailers set up bag collection programs. California's 2007 at-store plastic bag recycling mandate and a similar measure in New York City will fuel continued recycling growth. Similar measures are also being considered by other localities across the nation.

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