US plastics recycling market is ‘holding its own’

United States: The United States managed a recycling rate of 30.1% for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles last year, according to a joint statement by the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) and the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR).

The total volume of PET bottles collected was 1,797 million pounds in 2015, while the volume of PET bottles in the marketplace and potentially available for recycling increased to 5,971 million pounds. The 2015 recycling rate is down slightly from the 31% reported a year earlier.

PET bottle bales purchased by export markets, including Canada, were up 2% over the ten-year low reported in 2014, to represent 24% of total postconsumer PET volumes collected in 2015. Exports to Asia and other markets outside North America dropped by more than five percent, continuing the steep decline that began in 2011.

This is said to reflect a slight year-over-year decrease in US PET bottle collection volumes, meanwhile the total volume of PET bottles available for recycling in the US surged somewhat.

Total domestic end-use of recycled PET decreased from 1,564 million pounds in 2014 to 1,421 million pounds in 2015.

‘The PET reclaiming industry continued to sustain US recycling collection programs in 2015, producing more than a billion pounds of recycled PET feedstock for domestic end markets,’ comments Tom Busard, NAPCOR chairman. ‘This was no small task, given the global economic challenges we faced,’ he added.

Busard cited ‘very low’ virgin prices and ‘some softness’ in end market demand as factors influencing the sector. ‘Despite tough times, our industry held its own, as did our recycling program suppliers,’ he concluded.