With a heavy reliance on plastics in the manufacturing of consumer goods and other products, the plastics recycling industry plays an important role in helping to capture and process old plastics to be used again. This provides enormous benefits to the environment in many ways.
Plastics that can be recycled are processed for use in food and beverage containers, household products, medical equipment, construction materials, and other materials. New ways of using recycled plastics are constantly being developed from use in composite lumber to asphalt in parking lots.
The plastics recycling industry’s total annual economic impact in the U.S. is $6 billion.
The plastics recycling industry directly and indirectly supports nearly 30,000 jobs in the United States.
Recycling 1 ton of plastic bottles reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 3,380 lbs., which is the equivalent of 173 gallons of gasoline.
At least 1 billion pounds of U.S. plastic bags and film were collected for recycling in 2017, up 54 percent since 2005.
Using recycled plastics in manufacturing saves up to 88 percent of the energy needed to produce plastics from virgin materials.
Containers from food, beverages, and household products are a large part of the recycled plastics in the residential stream. But engineered and industrial plastics are other important sources of recycled plastics, including auto parts, appliances, and construction materials.
- Recyclers sort plastic by color using optical technology combined with air jets.
- Recycled plastic is often turned into small pellets that can then be melted down and molded to make new products.