Report Examines Plastics Recycling in Wisconsin

Report Examines Plastics Recycling in Wisconsin

The study finds significant economic opportunities by increasing plastics recycling.

February 11, 2013
Recycling Today Staff

A study commissioned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) finds that the state could realize substantial economic rewards and jobs growth by increasing the amount of plastics it recycles. The study estimates around $64 million in recyclable plastic materials is landfilled each year.

To get a better understanding of the opportunities afforded with increasing the plastics recycled, the DNR commissioned a study to identify actions that can be taken to capture and recycle more used plastics. “In addition to the benefits to businesses and employment, increasing plastics recycling would provide environmental benefits by prolonging the life of landfills and reducing pollution,” says Cynthia Moore, DNR recycling program coordinator.

The study, authored jointly by Foth Infrastructure and Environment and Moore Recycling Associates, lists steps Wisconsin can take to substantially increase plastics recovery rates. In a release, Moore says the actions “could be implemented individually or as a coordinated approach, and target the most valuable and commonly used plastic containers, such as consumer beverage bottles and containers for household cleaning products.”

The study also emphasizes the potential to increase the collection and recycling of plastic bags and other film plastics, as well as recovered rigid plastics such as clamshell containers, margarine tubs and drink cups.

Spurred by the study, the DNR has agreed to conduct a pilot project this spring to expand recycling of flexible film packaging. The film recycling project will be carried out under a Memorandum of Understanding with the American Chemistry Council’s Flexible Film Recycling Group and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s GreenBlue Foundation.

The project will focus on expanding consumer recycling of plastic film packaging, extending recycling opportunities at small and mid-sized businesses in the state. “This public-private partnership is a win-win for both the environment and the economy,” says DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.

Currently, Wisconsin’s plastic industry employs around 40,000 people with a direct payroll of $1.6 billion, which ranks it eighth nationally. “Increasing plastics recycling in the state will open the door for greater economic and job development particularly through expansion of existing business, but also in creation of new business,” says Dan Krivit, senior project manager for Foth and co-author of the report.

“There is a strong and growing demand for recycled plastics,” says Patty Moore, president of Moore Recycling Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in plastics recycling. “Even the highest volume, highest value plastic items are only recycled at about 30 percent nationally. With a coordinated approach to increasing the supply of used plastics from Wisconsin, the state could triple its plastics recycling rate and still not exceed the demand from domestic markets, many of which are located right in Wisconsin.”

The executive report can be viewed at, while the full report can be viewed at