You’ve likely heard some of the astounding and often disturbing facts about global plastic production, plastic waste and their detrimental impact on the environment. 

Facts like this one, for example: The amount of plastic produced in a single year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity. Empty Plastic 1 Gallon Milk Bottles

And this: It can take up to 500 years to decompose plastic items in landfills. 

Facts like these show that there’s much to be concerned about and it’s more important than ever that everyone from industry and government leaders, to individuals and small businesses, take action. 

It’s just as important to understand that the technology to recycle plastic cost-effectively has only been developing for the past 25 years. This relatively new industry is trying to keep pace with an insane global appetite for plastic products, and at Recycle 1, our mission is to be part of the solution. 

We’ve rounded up some of the latest facts about the impact and current state of plastic recycling. 

Non-recycled plastic has a (well deserved) bad rap for the way it’s piling up in landfills: 

  • About 25% of the plastics produced in the United States is recycled. The other 75% of plastics produced in the U.S. ends up in landfills. 
  • Recycling that 75% would free up 44 million cubic yards of landfill space annually and save one billion gallons of oil.

…and in our oceans:

  • There is more microplastic (created when plastic waste breaks down into tiny particles) in the ocean than there are stars in the Milky Way. 
  • If current trends continue, plastic pollution could outweigh fish pound for pound by 2050.

It’s well-known that recycling can preserve resources and save energy: 

  • Recycling one ton of plastics can save 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of gasoline.
  • It can also save 5,774Kwh of energy, 16.3 barrels of oil, and 98 million Btus of energy. 
  • Recycled plastic products require up to 87% less energy to manufacture than new plastic products. 

Recycling efforts by individuals, families and businesses has increased, but there’s still room for improvement:

  • In the U.S. alone, ISRI estimates that at least 5 million tons of post-consumer and post-industrial plastics were recycled in 2016.
  • In 2016, 5.6 billion pounds of post-consumer plastic, including bottles, bags, film, and non-bottled rigid plastics, were recycled in the U.S. 
  • Bottles and jars made out of PET plastic (the most recyclable plastic classification) have a 29.9% recycling rate in the U.S. The rest—totaling about 2.4 million tons—is discarded.
  • Most recycled plastics aren’t recycled into food-grade products. Instead they’re used for everything from fabrics to building insulation and park benches. 
  • Most plastics lose quality during the recycling process and can only be recycled once or twice. 

As the recycling industry grows, so does the economic impact, and now plastic scrap has become one of the most important scrap commodities on the global market.  My comment is….then why doesnt Recycle 1 take all these plastics for recycling ? All these statistics contradict what we actually are willing to accept and when I speak to people calling in to us looking for help they are confused.

  • Recent estimates indicate that recycling and reuse activities overall account for roughly 757,000 jobs, $36.6 billion in wages, and $6.7 billion in tax revenues in the U.S.
  • Today, the global plastics recycling industry is estimated to be worth $34 billion, and it’s predicted to reach a worth of $56 billion by 2026. 
  • More than 11.7 million tons of plastic scrap valued at nearly $5.2 billion were exported globally in 2016. 
  • The U.S. generated $730 million in export sales in 2016. 
  • In the U.S., more than 1,600 business organizations are involved in recycling post-consumer plastic items. 
  • It costs approximately $4,000 to recycle one ton of plastic bags, but those bags can be sold at twice the cost. 

More and more plastics are being recycled as the industry matures, leading to promising developments here in the U.S. and abroad. 

  • While only 9% of the plastic ever made has been recycled, recycling rates have increased and are now estimated to be around 20% globally. 
  • More than 60% of Americans—more than ever before—have access to plastic recycling programs. 
  • The U.S. processes enough scrap plastic annually to power 10,000 homes for one year. 
  • In 2016, more than 1.4 billion pounds of post-consumer non-bottle rigid plastics were recovered—that’s four times the amount recycled in 2009.
  • Scientists have discovered bacteria that dissolves plastic and are working to develop that further. While still early, there’s great potential for plastic-eating bacteria to work alongside recycling efforts. 

If you want your business to be a bigger part of the solution, give us a call to see how our programs at Recycle 1 can help. We’d love to partner with you!