highest component (23.9 percent) of municipal solid waste. The EPA characterization study
also showed that plastics were recovered at a rate of 3.5 percent by weight in 1993.
A study commissioned by the American Plastics Council (APC) reported that the 1993
recycling rate for postconsumer plastic bottles and rigid containers was 15.9 percent; the
total recycling rate for plastic packaging of the six major resin types was 6.9 percent. The
study was conducted by R.W. Reck and is entitled: "1993 National Post-Consumer Plastics
Recycling Rate Study." The results are. based on data compiled from 255 companies'
involved in the reclamation and export of postconsumer plastics. Information was compiled
from plastic reclaimers who carried out the last value-added step before remanufacture, and
plastics handlers, reclaimers, or brokers who were exporting the materials for recycling.
This study did not summarize the recycling results of non-packaging applications, and all the
numbers cited from this report refer to totals for packaging application only. According to
the study, the most commonly recycled postconsumer products are polyethylene terephthalate.
(PET) soft drink bottles, with a 41 percent recycling rate, and high density polyethylene
(HDPE) milk and water jugs, with a 24.3 percent recycling rate. Other postconsumer resins,
including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), low density polyethylene (LDPE) (including linear low
density polyethylene (LLDPE)), and polystyrene (PS) are recycled at rates lower than 1
percent; polypropylene (PP) bottles are recycled at a somewhat higher rate of 1.6 percent.
PET has the highest recycling rate of all postconsumer resins. The APC study
reported the 1993 recycling rate for postconsumer PET packagimg was 28 percent (447.8
million pounds). This rate reflects the high recycling rate for PET soft drink bottles, which
are the most widely recycled plastic product. Currently, the primary market for
postconsumer PET is fiber for use in products such as ski jackets, sleeping bags, and carpet.
Other markets for postconsumer PET include geotextiles, soft drink bottles, and household
There is a large potential supply of HDPE from postconsumer sources, as well as
preconsumer sources. APC reported that 450.2 million pounds of postconsumer HDPE
packaging materials were recycled in 1992. The supply of postconsumer HDPE is mainly
from recycled milk and water jugs, detergent bottles and other household products bottles.
Other sources reported that 427.6 millionpounds of preconsumer (or post-industrial) HDPE
were recycled in 1990. The availability of postconsumer HDPE is expected to increase as
more communities include HDPE products in their recycling collection programs and as
improvements in recovered plastics processing are achieved.
There is also a supply of recovered PVC; although relatively small amounts of
postconsumer PVC are available. PVC bottles make up a small percentage of the consumer
container market and typically have not been collected in local recycling programs. APC
reported that 5.5 million pounds of postconsumer PVC packaging was recycled in 1993.
Other sources estimate that the amount of preconsumer recovered PVC were approximately
130.9 million pounds in 1990, and the. supply of preconsumer recovered PVC now is
expected to be greater due to increased diversion from the waste stream. Sources of