Access to plastic recycling in America

Some interesting data about America’s access to plastic recycling from a newly released national study prepared for the American Chemistry Council by Moore Recycling Associates. According to the study, recycling options in 2,468 communities of 10,000 population or greater were analyzed, as well as the unincorporated portions of 800 counties. Key findings were the following:

  • 94 percent of Americans have access to plastic bottle recycling such as milk jugs and water bottles.
  • 40 percent of Americans have access to other types of plastic recycling such as yogurt cups and similar containers.
  • The majority of cities and counties continue to use resin codes to describe acceptable materials for recycling, which is very confusing to the public (emphasis added). It is unfortunately quite common to see education such as…

“Empty Plastic Containers: any plastic container with the “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7″ recycling number on the back or bottom. Look for the symbol on these types of containers: beverage, bleach, condiment, cleaners, cooking oil, detergent, liquor, lotion, mouthwash, shampoo, syrup, milk and water jugs, plastic lids and bottle caps, plastic food trays, yogurt and butter tubs, meat trays.”

“In this commonly repeated case, the use of the numbers is perplexing and unnecessary, since all plastic containers are one of these resin types and it does not affect the recyclability of the product if the code is not on the container (emphasis added).”

“This type of education discourages the public from participating in plastic recycling if they believe they have to check every plastic container to see if it has a number; it perpetuates the myth that only some of the containers can be recycled, whereas, in the program above, all containers can be included.”

That last point I did not know and in itself is probably the most important fact to take away from this report. In essence, there was no need for me to contact the maker of my after shave in April, for according to this report all plastic containers fall into the #1 through #7 categories.

While the data is very promising and the findings very useful, it does show a need for expanded recycling options across much of the United States for “non-bottle” plastics. Personally, I have bi-weekly curbside service for #1 and #2 plastics, but must drive about six miles to recycle #3 through #7 plastic.

The chart below from this nationwide study summarizes the proportions of the United States population that have access to various types of plastic recycling.

The second chart from this comprehensive report (provided below) shows accessibility to plastics recycling in a different format – by identifying the percentage of the United States population that has access to each classification of plastic products.

Thank you to for first posting this interesting study on its website.

This entry was posted in Environment, pollution, Recycling, Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Access to plastic recycling in America

  1. Nice article. Patty Moore and her team do good work. If you want to learn more, beyond the numbers, of plastics recycling in the U.S., take a look at Save the Plastics at


  2. Pingback: Access to plastic recycling in America « Progressive Blogic | Follow The Swarm

  3. Very interesting facts you have illustrated.These figures are definitely concrete, I believe. Thanks for the good info.


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