A recently released report points to growth in the recovery of plastic bags and film. According to 2011 National Postconsumer Plastic Bag & Film Recycling Report, prepared by Moore Recycling Associates, Sonoma, Calif., for the American Chemistry Council, plastic bag and film recycling has increased 55 percent since 2005, with the recovery of postconsumer film reaching 1 billion pounds in 2011.
The report is based on recovery data from 19 U.S. and three Canadian processors of postconsumer film and from 37 companies that export postconsumer film.
More than half of the film recovered in the United States between 2006 and 2009 was sold to overseas markets, according to Moore Recycling Associates. In 2010, however, that trend reversed. “Domestic sales continued to exceed foreign sales in 2011: U.S. and Canadian processors consumed approximately 58 percent of U.S.-recovered postconsumer ?lm and bag material, and the export market consumed the remaining 42 percent,” the study notes. “Composite lumber manufacturers consumed the majority of domestically processed material, with substantial growth in consumption in 2011. The film and sheet market consumed close to the same amount in 2011 as it did in 2010.
The total amount of postconsumer film collected for recycling in 2011 increased 4 percent over 2010, the report notes.
Clear commercial film made up most of the film collected for recycling; however, its recovery may be declining, according to the report. Recovery of mixed film—including mixed color commercial material and postconsumer retail collected bags and wraps—is growing, as is the amount of curbside film and other film recovered. “In 2011, the percentage of bags and sacks in mixed film bales, reported by reclaimers, was extremely varied (from a low of 12 percent to a high of 85 percent). Thus, there is great uncertainty in the total recovery of bags and sacks. But, by using the reported reclaimer average along with curbside and mixed film reported, our rough estimate is that 151 million pounds of bags and sacks were collected for recycling—representing a 19 percent increase from 2010,” according to the study.
Also on the increase presently is industrial generation of plastic scrap. Despite the reported growth in generation, demand continues to outpace supply, sources say.
“Plastic scrap generation is increasing due to increased manufacturing in the U.S.,” a plastics reprocessor based in the Great Lakes region says. “We are primarily in the auto industry, which had its best year in 2012 since 2006.”
He attributes the growth in demand for recycled plastics to their value proposition. “More companies are realizing the value of recycled plastic and are approving their use at much higher levels than ever before,” the reprocessor says.
“The increasing price of oil along with the limited production facilities making virgin resins have caused the price of virgin to continue trending upward, thus, creating higher values for recycling resins,” he says.
The reprocessor says higher-end thermoplastics, such as PC/ABS (polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), ABS and SMA (styrene maleic anhydride), are in high demand, as are glass-fiber-reinforced polypropylenes (GFPPs).