The state of plastics recycling in the United States

The state of plastics recycling in the United States
A new study released today provides encouraging news about the state of plastics recycling in the U.S.: More than 91 percent of the U.S. population can recycle their plastic bags locally, and additionally, nearly 75 percent of people living in the U.S. can recycle other types of flexible plastic wraps in their own communities.

The study, which looked at flexible polyethylene film – a category that includes flexible plastic bags, sacks and many product wraps – identified over 15,000 drop-off locations that collect these items for recycling. The majority of collection centers are conveniently located in stores, frequently major grocery chains or retailers like Target and Lowe’s home improvement stores.

Plastic Film and Bag Recycling Collection: National Reach Study,” conducted by Moore Recycling Associates Inc., is believed to be the first study to examine consumers’ access to recycle flexible plastic packaging. A separate study released earlier this year found that the recycling of flexible plastics increased 50 percent over the last five years to reach nearly 1 billion pounds annually in the United States.

The National Reach Study also found that despite the prevalence of access to flexible plastic recycling programs, consumers are not yet using this infrastructure to its full potential.

“Plastic bags and wraps are a valuable resource that should be recycled after use,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council. “We’re thrilled that so many Americans have access to recycling, and we look forward to working to increase consumer awareness, so we can recycle even more of this material.”

Toward that end, the flexible plastics value chain recently came together to form the Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG), which is applying industry resources to boost consumer education; labeling of bags, films and wraps with recycling information; and infrastructure expansion.

“Education is the next critical step,” Russell said. “Awareness and convenience are key to changing behavior, and we frequently see that when awareness meets convenience, consumers are very willing to recycle their plastics.”

To help increase awareness among consumers, the FFRG is working with GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition to develop a “Store Drop-off” label specifically for flexible plastic packaging. For more information on the new label, see:

To search for a drop-off location in your community, see For breaking news on advancements in plastics recycling, follow us on Twitter: @Recycle_Plastic.

Read more: Recycling 208 Film 88


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