APR study: Recycled plastics lower energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions

APR study: Recycled plastics lower energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions

Study examines life cycle impacts for recycled PET, HDPE and PP.

January 29, 2019

According to a new study published by the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), Washington, significant reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions are associated with using recycled plastics in manufacturing new products.

Leading industry research consultants Franklin Associates, a division of ERG, Lexington, Massachusetts, prepared the report, “Life cycle impacts for postconsumer recycled resins: PET, HDPE and PP.” Franklin Associates analyzed the energy requirements and environmental impacts of postconsumer recycled plastics as compared with virgin plastics. 

This analysis is an update and expansion of a recycled resin study the company completed in 2011 for the APR quantifying the total energy requirements, energy sources, atmospheric pollutants, waterborne pollutants and solid waste that result from producing recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) from postconsumer plastic.

“This study shows a win-win for companies who incorporate recycled plastic resin into their new products,” says Steve Alexander, APR president. “They can improve the environmental sustainability of their products and processes and reduce their energy costs. It demonstrates the importance and effectiveness of the full recycling chain for plastic goods—a chain that starts with companies manufacturing recyclable products and ends with consumers buying products made from recycled materials.”   

The report examines recycling processes for three of the most common types of plastics recycled today:  PET, HDPE and polypropylene (PP).

According to the report, using recycled plastic reduced total energy consumption by 79 percent for PET, by 88 percent for HDPE and by 8 percent for PP. Using recycled plastics also limited emissions by 67 percent for PET, by 71 percent for HDPE and by 71 percent for PP.

“This report clearly demonstrates the benefits of a renewed commitment to plastic recycling,” says Jaime Camara, CEO of Mexico-based PetStar and chair of The APR board of directors. “It is critical that North America continues to invest in our recycling infrastructure so that we can expand the material that is collected, sorted and processed for second use. Recycling and using recycled materials are good for manufacturers, consumers and the planet.”