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There has been a 72% on year increase in the collection and recycling of non-bottle rigid plastics in the U.S. and a 14% rise in plastic film recycling, according to a new report by the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

The report, prepared by Moore Recycling Associates, found that in 2010, nearly 820 million pounds (372,000 tonnes) of post-consumer rigid plastics were collected for recycling across the U.S. - an increase of 72% from 2009 and 154% since 2007.

The AAC said that 'non-bottle rigid plastics' includes non-durable items (packaging), such as dairy and deli tubs, lids, yogurt cups and similar food containers, as well as durable items, such as pallets, crates, carts, 5-gallon buckets and electronic housings.

The collection and recycling of non-bottle rigid plastics is relatively new and calculated separately from plastic bottles, which have been widely recycled in the U.S. for decades, the AAC said.

The report found that the 100 largest U.S. cities, the number of cities collecting rigid plastics in addition to plastic bottles doubled from 29 in 2008 to 59 in 2011. In addition, many communities are shifting to "single-stream collection," whereby residents are able to place all of their recyclables in the same bin.

According to the AAC, this means far more consumers have convenient access to recycle their rigid plastics.

The report also noted robust growth in the recycling of rigid plastics in the commercial sector, with strong pricing and demand for recycled plastic materials having helped spur growth in this category.

According to the report, among the five major types of recyclable materials, plastic scrap has the highest economic value per ton with the single exception of non-ferrous metals.

The AAC said that the plastics collected in the 'non-bottle rigids' category comprise primarily polypropylene (PP) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) as well as lesser amounts of other/mixed resins, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and low density polyethylene (LDPE).

Plastic bags

An additional report conducted by Moore Recycling Associates on behalf of the AAC into the recycling of post-consumer plastic bags and wraps-a category known as plastic film - has found that a record high of nearly 972 million pounds (440,891 tonnes) in 2010.

According to the ACC, this represents an increase of more than 117 million pounds (53,000 tonnes) or 14% over 2009 and an increase of 50% since 2005, when Moore Recycling began tracking this category of plastics recycling.

In addition, the ACC said that over past five years, the recycling of plastic film grew seven times faster than recycling overall, according to data from EPA.

Recovered polyethylene film can be used to make durable plastic and composite lumber for outdoor decks and fencing, home building products, garden products, crates, piping, and new film packaging like plastic bags.

The organisation attributed the recent upturn in plastics film recycling to a combination of increased access to collection points via grocery and retail chains, better labelling on bags, and a rise in consumer awareness.

To continue building on the growth of plastics film recycling, ACC said that it has formed a new Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG). The new group includes members representing the full plastics film value chain, from resin suppliers to film manufacturers, brand owners and recyclers.

According to the ACC, the FFRG will initially focus on increasing plastics film recycling by improving consumer awareness and promoting the growth of recycling infrastructure, particularly among smaller and mid-sized retailers, dry cleaners and other outlets.

The FFRG plans to expand the 'A Bag's Life,' consumer education campaign to include other plastic product wraps and to partner with the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers and other allied trade groups to bolster the recovery of plastic film.

Founding members of FFRG include Avanguard, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, SC Johnson, Sealed Air, and Trex.

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