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Recycling report points to growth in Canadian capacity to recycle plastics

Released by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, the new report found that 88 per cent of the post-consumer plastic reported was reclaimed in Canada or the U.S.


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August 29, 2019 by Canadian Plastics

Most of the recyclable material collected in Canada over the past two years has remained in North America for reprocessing into new products rather than being shipped to overseas markets, a new study says.

Compiled by recycling consultant More Recycling and released by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), the “2017 Post-Consumer Plastics Recycling in Canada” report concluded that 88 per cent of the material reported was reclaimed in Canada or the U.S., and 10 percent was exported overseas. The destination of the remaining two per cent is unknown, the study said.

“2017 was a pivotal year for recyclers of post-consumer packaging and products around the globe,” the report said. “Even as recycled plastic resins were challenged in the marketplace by low cost virgin resin, the Chinese government enacted ‘National Sword’ policies which blocked plastics and many other recyclables from entering the country. Ultimately, other Asian markets followed suit and stopped accepting recycled commodities from North America and Europe. The result over the past two years has been a significant tightening in the market as recyclers around the globe seek buyers for recovered materials.”

Despite this, the study continued, Canadians continue to recycle, and recycling programs continue to send these materials to end markets, the majority of which are in North America. They convert the plastics into new packaging and consumer and industrial goods.

“This study again proves that by developing and maintaining strong domestic markets for recycled commodities we can continue to offer Canadians viable programs to recycle plastics,” CPIA president and CEO carol Hochu said. “This is important because Canadians have demonstrated they are fully committed to and want to continue to recycle.”

The study found that, as always, plastic bottles are the coast-to-coast leaders in recycling with 63 per cent being collected at curbside or returned to depot for recycling. “Following their first and potential reuse, PET bottles continue to be reprocessed to generate plastic fibres (for textiles) and to be converted into new bottles,” the study said. “HDPE bottles are most often converted into new bottles along with lumber and decking as well as lawn and garden products.”

And contrary to the positive outlook for traditional plastic bottle packaging, the tightening international markets have impacted plastics recycling rates across the board, the study concluded. “This is reflected in a five per cent overall decline in recovery rate through 2017,” it said. “Plastic film recycling was most profoundly affected by export restrictions and a need for new domestic markets, particularly those able to process post-consumer materials from curbside programs. While many materials were also subject to reductions, most were just slightly off versus prior year values.”

The full report is available at this link.