Plastic Recycling Facts and Figures

Author:Suny Group

Plastic recycling has become an increasingly important sector of recycling but it would be hard to declare plastic recycling as a success story from an environmental perspective, with less than 10% of generation from the U.S. Municipal solid Waste stream being recycled, as well considering the very serious global challenge of ocean plastic and the enduring environmental problem of plastic shopping bags. 

Let’s have a look at some topical facts about plastic recycling:

Environmental Facts

It takes up to 500 years to decompose plastic items in landfills.

According to EPA, 9.1% of plastic material generated in the U.S. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) stream was recycled in 2015. Another 15.5% was combusted for energy, while 75.4% was sent to landfills.

According to the U.S. EPA, plastic recycling results in significant energy savings compared with production of new plastics using virgin material.

PlasticsEurope reports that 7.7 million tons of plastics were recycled globally in 2014, including more than 3.5 million tons of post-industrial and post-consumer plastic scrap that were recycled in the United States, according to ISRI estimates. 

According to NAPCOR, 301.1% of plastic bottles sold in the U.S. were recycled in 2015.

The recycling rate of various plastic items such as plastic bags, bottles is slight. According to EPA reports, 2.1 million tons plastic waste was recycled in 2008. This number equals to 6.8 percent of total plastic waste generated in the U.S. in that year. But the recovery of PET soft drink bottles in 2008 was 37 percent which was much better than that of other plastic containers. In 2008, only 13.3 percent of plastic packaging was recycled. And currently, 27 percent of plastic bottles are recycled.