Plastic bag manufacturers have made great strides in recycling since the invention of the plastic bag more than 35 years ago. Thanks to an industry-wide push and constant improvements to recycling technology and equipment, recycling rates of polyethylene bags, sacks and wraps has reached 15 percent. At Hilex, we strive to improve our recycling rates every year and have successfully increased the average amount of recycled content in all Hilex products to 30 percent, growing 5 percent between 2010 and 2011.
In the United States, much of the progress has been achieved through a combination of great efforts including state-of-the-art recycling technology, ‘take back’ programs like the Bag-2-Bag program, and increased consumer accessibility to recycling drop off stations.
In fact, a recent study from Moore Recycling Associates found that more people in the United States have access to plastic bag, film, wrap and sack recycling than ever before! The study, Plastic Film and Bag Recycling Collection: National Reach Study, established that “91% to 93% of the U.S. population has access to plastic bag recycling and 72% to 74% also have access to plastic film recycling” through curbside collection or close proximity to a drop-off facility.
While this is amazing progress, the study also identifies barriers to consumer participation in plastic recycling. Though certainly not news to those in the recycling industry, consumer awareness around the recycling process continues to limit the amount of recyclable plastic that is entered into the recycling stream. “People want to do the right thing, but they don’t know what the right thing is.” Until consumers are educated about the recycling process, the documented progress we’ve made in access to plastic film, wrap and bag recycling will not be used to its full potential.
On the bright side, more than 90 percent of Americans go beyond recycling and reuse their plastic bags at least once, for everything from storage to waste disposal to packing material. Consumers do indeed want to “do the right thing”!
So while there is still much progress to be made, the Moore report has helped to illuminate how our industry can continue to make more progress toward increased collection and recycling of plastic bags, film, wraps and sacks across the nation.