Once again, plastic is demonstrating its high level of sustainability. According to a new report issued by the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), the gross recycling rate for PET bottles in the U.S. is now at an all-time high. More consumers in the U.S. are recycling PET packaging than ever, and it doesn't stop there—more plastic packaging companies are making the most of the trend with their own sustainable production practices.
PET Packaging Recycling Rates
According to NAPCOR, the recycling rate for PET jumped from 29.3 percent to 30.8 percent between 2011 and 2012—a difference of about 100 million pounds. That brings the total collected volume of PET bottles up to 1.718 billion pounds, the largest volume ever.
And what's happening to all of that reclaimed PET packaging? It's being put to good use. The NAPCOR report reveals that in 2012, U.S. reclaimers/plastic packaging companies also produced a higher volume of RPET than ever, coming in at 930 million pounds. (RPET, of course, is the reprocessed PET that it used to turn postconsumer plastic packaging like bottles into products like reusable grocery bags and thermoforms.)
What This Means Moving Forward
Ultimately, the record-breaking increase in postconsumer PET reclamation and recycling is a good sign for the overall sustainability of plastic—but there's always more work to do. While we've embraced the potential of RPET here at PI, and the increase in RPET production across the country shows that others are jumping on board, it will take a stronger industry-wide effort to keep moving forward.
The NAPCOR report shows that despite the higher-than-ever amount of RPET produced in 2012, the supply didn't keep pace with demand. No plastic packaging company can do it alone (not even us, we're sorry to say), and it's time for other manufacturers across the country to invest more heavily than ever in RPET and sustainable practices. If recycling is good enough for American consumers, it sure is good enough for us!