Processing Magazine

Demand for recycled plastics grows in North America

January 2, 2013

Canada managed to increase the amount of packaging and other plastic products recycled in 2011 by almost a quarter compared to figures from 2010, a recent report from recycling solutions provider Moore Recycling Associates has shown.

According to the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), the increase can be put down to the fact that last year there was more material collected and to the larger number of companies that supplied recycling information.

In 2011 Canada recycled 64.5 million pounds of plastic bottles, which is a 19 percent increase from 2010, as well as 599,000 pounds of plastic bags and wrap (a 1 percent increase) and 46.2 million pounds of non-bottle rigid plastics (a 70 percent rise). The sharp increase in recycled non-bottle rigid plastic is attributed to initiatives by municipalities to collect all types of plastic containers, whereas previously they only collected bottles, the CPIA explained.

For the first time in 2011, information on foam polystyrene recycling was collected and figures reveal that a total of 1.65 million pounds was recycled. The CPIA noted that the use of densification equipment that can compress the foam has enabled the transportation of this material both in North America and overseas. The demand for recycled foam is growing and the new technology makes the recycling process worthwhile, the agency said in a statement. Once the foam is recycled it can be used for fire protection products, crown moldings and decorative frames for mirrors and pictures.

Still, the CPIA pointed out that there is room for improvement, as there is a need for more supply. The agency believes that there is underused capacity, which provides opportunities for both businesses and consumers to provide more plastics to Canadian plastic recyclers. If more plastic is collected, recyclers will be able to work to their full potential. It is estimated that film and bag recycling in Canada currently operates at 38 percent of its capacity, the CPIA said.

Meanwhile, the United States also predicts an increase in demand for post-consumer recycled plastic, with an estimated annual rise of 6.5 percent to almost 3.5 billion pounds by 2016. A study conducted by Cleveland-based Freedonia Group suggests that the almost 1 billion pounds hike on last year's demand is driven by a growing emphasis on sustainability among packaging and consumer product manufacturers. In addition, improved processing and sorting technologies that can deal with more plastic resins, and better collection infrastructures, are also playing a significant role in the expanding industry.

The U.S. recycled plastic industry benefits from the joint efforts of federal, state and local governments that aim to optimize and facilitate collection of post-user plastics, as well to encourage demand, the study revealed. This is especially necessary in light of the fact that recycled plastics account for just 7 percent of the total demand in the domestic market, Freedonia Group calculated.