Study #: 4217 | Published: 10/2021 | Pages: 226 | Individual User License: US$ 4,500

US demand for post-consumer recycled plastic in packaging applications is forecast to rise 9.1% per year to 2.8 billion pounds in 2025. Despite this rapid rate of expansion, the use of recycled plastic in packaging could be much higher if it were not constrained by supply. Demand for recycled content in packaging is higher than ever, with growth driven by:

  • an increasing emphasis on sustainability among packaging and consumer goods manufacturers, a large number of which have made public pledges to greatly increase the amount of recycled plastics in their packaging
  • consumer concern regarding packaging and its impact on the environment
  • packing producer concerns over potential bans of their products, such as the bans on plastic retail bags and single-use foodservice products
  • renewed efforts by the private sector to encourage recycling, in order to meet their ambitious sustainability goals

Growth Depends on Changes to Waste Collection & Processing & on Consumer Education

In order to produce enough recycled plastic to meet new ambitious recycled content targets, a number of changes to collection and processing need to be made. To increase the amount of waste collected, consumer education is needed to improve understanding of:

  • the detrimental effects of including unrecyclable waste in the recycling waste stream
  • proper recycling of plastic waste, including which plastics are recyclable

More importantly, systems need to be improved to make municipal waste pick-up easier and more convenient for consumers, particularly at multifamily residences such as apartments and condominiums, which often have not access to on-site collection.

Additionally, plastic waste processing technologies need to be improved to increase the amount of collected plastic that can be converted into flake that can be reused in new packaging. Technology advancements are needed for items that are already commonly recycled – such as bottles and other rigid packaging – but more importantly for products that are not already widely recycled – including flexible packaging, hard-to-recycle plastics, and non-packaging plastic waste. Producers of a wide variety of manufactured goods target discarded plastic bottles as a source of recycled content, but there are not enough plastic bottles produced to meet all recycled content demand.

PET to Remain Most Widely Used & Fastest Growing Recycled Resin

By 2025, PET is expected to account for 55% of recycled resin used in packaging applications. Demand for PET is expected to grow at an above average pace, with double-digit gains boosted by rising use of recycled content in food and beverage bottles, which much meet stricter standards to be food safe. Rising demand for recycled polyethylene, in contrast, will come from use of recycled content in non-food contact applications, which are easy targets for increasing recycled content in packaging because they do not require food-safe certified resins. In particular, rising demand for recycled LDPE in retail and trash bags will be driven by manufacturer efforts to prevent further implementation of retail bag bans by improving the sustainability of these products in other ways.


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Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary

2. Recycling Industry Overview

Study Scope

Lifecycle of Plastic

Plastic Recycling Processes & Technology Development

Collection

Sorting Processes

Baling Processes

Shredding & Washing Processes

Technological Developments

Historical Recycled Plastic Trends

Trends in Recycled Content Sources (PCR vs. PIR)

Packaging's Importance to the Recycling Industry

3. Recycled Plastic Supply & Demand

Data Sources & Methodology

Growth Scenarios

Base Case Growth Scenario

Supply & Demand Overview

Plastic Waste Collection Outlook

Recycled Plastic Supply Forecast

Recycled Plastic Demand in Packaging Forecast

Increased Collection Scenario

4. Factors Impacting Plastic Recycling Activity

Plastic Resin Industry Trends

Plastic Pricing Trends

Factors Impacting Virgin vs. Plastic Pricing

Virgin Resins

Recycled Resins

Foreign Trade of Plastic Waste

Plastic Waste Supply & Demand

China's Ban on Waste Imports

Impact of the Basel Convention

Regulatory & Legislative Environment

Federal, State, & Local Government Framework

Container Deposit Laws

Municipal Collection Infrastructure

Solid Waste Management Trends

Food Contact Standards

Plastic Packaging Bans

Alternatives to Plastic Recycling for Sustainability

Bioplastics

Compostable Plastics

Material Substitution

5. Consumers & Plastic Recycling

What is Sustainability to Consumers?

Attitudes About Recycling

Attitudes About Recyclable Packaging & Recycled Content in Packaging

Packaging Materials Ranked by Perceived Eco-Friendliness

Sustainable Packaging Features Particularly Sought by Consumers

Attitudes About Recycling & Biodegradability

COVID-19 Pandemic Household Waste Generation

Curbside Recycling Services: Consumer Access

Drop-Off Recycling Services: Consumer Usage

Frequency of Use: Recycling & Composting Services

Recycling Participation Rates by Material

Plastic Containers Recycling

Glass Containers Recycling

Paper Recycling

Paperboard & Corrugated Recycling

Plastic Film & Bag Recycling

Composting of Packaging

Consumer Attitudes About Paying For Waste Services

Willingness to Pay for Expanded Curbside Recycling & Composting Services

Who Should Pay For Waste Services

6. Public & Private Recycling Initiatives

Public Sector Initiatives

Recycled Content Requirements & Incentives

Plastic Bag & Container Regulations

Private Sector Initiatives & Issues

Labeling & Bale Standards

Collection Initiatives

Extended Producer Responsibility

7. Recycled Plastic Content Targets

Implementation of Recycled Plastic Content Targets

Consumer Packaged Goods Producers

Packaging Suppliers

State Governments & Other Entities

8. Plastic Waste Collection for Recycling

Recycling Collection by Source

Bottles

Collection by Resin

PET

PE (HDPE & LDPE)

PP & Other Resins

Other Rigid Plastic & Foam

Collection by Resin

Packaging

Motor Vehicles

All Other Rigid Plastic & Foam

Carpet & Fiber

Flexible Packaging

9. Recycled Plastic Resins in Packaging

Demand by Resin

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

Virgin PET Resin Supply & Demand

Waste PET Collected & Recycled PET Supply

Recycled PET Demand in Packaging by Product

Producers

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

Virgin HDPE Resin Supply & Demand

Waste HDPE Collected & Recycled HDPE Supply

Packaging Demand for Recycled HDPE by Product

Producers

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE & LLDPE)

Virgin LDPE & LLDPE Resin Supply & Demand

Waste LDPE & LLDPE Collected & Recycled LDPE & LLDPE Supply

Packaging Demand for Recycled LDPE & LLDPE by Product

Producers

Polypropylene (PP) & Other Plastic Resins

Virgin PP & Other Plastic Resins Supply & Demand

Waste PP & Other Plastic Collected & Recycled PP & Other Plastic Supply

Packaging Demand for Recycled PP & Other Plastic by Product

10. Recycled Plastics in Packaging Products

Recycled Plastic Demand in Packaging

Bottles

Demand by Application & Resin

Food & Beverage Bottles

Non-Food Bottles

Other Rigid Plastic Packaging

Flexible Packaging

Demand by Product & Resin

Retail Bags

Trash Bags

Other Flexible Packaging

11. Industry Structure

Industry Participants & Key Findings

Recycled Plastic Processors

Packaging Suppliers

Consumer Packaged Goods Producers

Retailers

12. Appendix

Report Details

Definitions

Abbreviations

Freedonia Methodology

Study-Specific Methodology

Sources

Associations & Agencies

Related Studies & Reports

Macroeconomic Assumptions

Economic Environment

Demographics

Manufacturers' Shipments


List of Tables

2. Recycling Industry Overview

Table 2-1 | Recycled Plastic Market, 2005 - 2020 (million pounds)

3. Recycled Plastic Supply & Demand

Table 3-1 | Recycled Plastic Supply & Demand Base Scenario, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 3-2 | Recycled Plastic Processing & Demand: Increased Collection Scenario, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

4. Factors Impacting Plastic Recycling Activity

Table 4-1 | Plastic Resin Supply & Demand by Type, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 4-2 | Virgin Plastic Resin Average Prices, 2010 - 2030 (dollars per pound)

Table 4-3 | Average Recycled Plastic Resin Prices in Packaging, 2010 - 2030 (dollars per pound)

Table 4-4 | Plastic Waste Supply & Demand, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

5. Consumers & Plastic Recycling

Table 5-1 | Consumer Attitudes About Recycling by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of total respondents who agree with the statements)

Table 5-2 | Consumer Attitudes About Recyclable & Recycled Content in Packaging by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of respondents in agreement with the statements)

Table 5-3 | Consumer Perspectives on the Eco-Friendliness of Packaging Using Conventional Petroleum-Based Plastics by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of total respondents)

Table 5-4 | Consumer Perspectives on the Eco-Friendliness of Packaging Using Plant-Based Bioplastics by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of total respondents)

Table 5-5 | Features Consumers Especially Look for When Considering "Sustainable" or "Eco-Friendly" Packaging by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% total respondents)

Table 5-6 | Consumer Attitudes About Recycled Plastics & Biodegradability by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of total respondents)

Table 5-7 | COVID-19 Pandemic Household Waste Generation Trends by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of respondents in agreement with the statements)

Table 5-8 | Access To Curbside Recycling at Home by Product to Recycle, Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% total respondents)

Table 5-9 | Access To Curbside Composting Services at Home by Type, Gender, Age Group, Rural vs. Urban Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% total respondents)

Table 5-10 | Usage of Drop-Off Recycling Services (at a Store, Community Bin, Waste Management Facility, etc.) in the Last 12 Months by Product, Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of total respondents)

Table 5-11 | Usage of Drop-Off Composting Services (at a Store, Community Bin, Waste Management Facility, etc.) in the Last 12 Months by Product, Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of total respondents)

Table 5-12 | Consumer Frequency of Plastic Container Recycling by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of respondents with access to plastic container recycling services)

Table 5-13 | Consumer Frequency of Glass Container Recycling by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of respondents with access to glass container recycling services)

Table 5-14 | Consumer Frequency of Paper Recycling by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of respondents with access to paper recycling services)

Table 5-15 | Consumer Frequency of Paperboard & Corrugated Recycling by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of respondents with access to paperboard & corrugated recycling services)

Table 5-16 | Consumer Frequency of Plastic Film & Bag Recycling by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of respondents with access to plastic film & bag recycling services)

Table 5-17 | Consumer Frequency of Composting Packaging by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of respondents with access to composting for packaging services)

Table 5-18 | Willingness to Pay for Expanded Curbside Recycling & Composting Services by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of total respondents who agree with the statements)

Table 5-19 | Consumer Opinion on Who Should Pay for Waste Services by Gender, Age Group, Urban vs. Rural Setting, & Annual Household Income Bracket, 2021 (% of respondents in agreement)

7. Recycled Plastic Content Targets

Table 7-1 | Selected Consumer Packaged Goods Producers: Recycled Content Goals

Table 7-2 | Selected Packaging Suppliers: Recycled Content Goals

Table 7-3 | Selected State Governments: Recycled Content Goals

8. Plastic Waste Collection for Recycling

Table 8-1 | Post-Consumer Plastic Waste Collected for Recycling by Source, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 8-2 | Plastic Bottles Collected for Recycling by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 8-3 | Rigid Plastic & Foam Collected for Recycling by Source, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 8-4 | Carpet & Fiber Collected for Recycling by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 8-5 | Flexible Packaging Collected for Recycling by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

9. Recycled Plastic Resins in Packaging

Table 9-1 | Recycled Plastic Demand in Packaging by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds & million dollars)

Table 9-2 | Virgin Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) Supply & Demand, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds & billion dollars)

Table 9-3 | PET Waste Collection & Recycled PET Supply, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 9-4 | Recycled PET Demand in Packaging by Product, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds & million dollars)

Table 9-5 | Virgin HDPE Supply & Demand, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds & billion dollars)

Table 9-6 | HDPE Waste Collected & Recycled HDPE Supply, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 9-7 | Recycled HDPE Demand in Packaging by Product, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds & million dollars)

Table 9-8 | Virgin LDPE & LLDPE Resin Supply & Demand by Resin Type, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds & billion dollars)

Table 9-9 | LDPE & LLDPE Waste Collected & Recycled LDPE & LLDPE Supply, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 9-10 | Recycled LDPE & LLDPE Demand in Packaging by Product, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds & million dollars)

Table 9-11 | Virgin Polypropylene (PP) & Other Plastic Supply & Demand by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds & billion dollars)

Table 9-12 | PP & Other Plastic Waste Collected & Recycled PP & Other Plastic Supply, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 9-13 | Recycled PP & Other Plastic Resin Demand in Packaging by Product, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds & million dollars)

10. Recycled Plastics in Packaging Products

Table 10-1 | Recycled Plastic Demand in Packaging by Product, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 10-2 | Bottles: Demand for Recycled Plastic by Application & Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 10-3 | Food & Beverage Bottles: Demand for Recycled Plastic by Application & Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 10-4 | Non-Food Bottle Demand for Recycled Plastic by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 10-5 | Demand for Recycled Plastic in Other Rigid Plastic Packaging by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 10-6 | Demand for Recycled Plastic in Flexible Packaging by Product & Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 10-7 | Retail Bags: Demand for Recycled Plastic by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 10-8 | Trash Bags: Demand for Recycled Plastic by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Table 10-9 | Other Flexible Packaging: Demand for Recycled Plastic by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

12. Appendix

Table 12-1 | Relevant Industry Codes

Table 12-2 | Relevant HS Codes

Table 12-3 | Relevant NACE Codes

Table 12-4 | Abbreviations Used in the Study

Table 12-5 | Macroeconomic Indicators, 2010 - 2030 (billion 2012 dollars)

Table 12-6 | Population & Households, 2010 - 2030 (million persons)

Table 12-7 | Manufacturers' Shipments, 2010 - 2030 (billion dollars)


List of Figures

1. Executive Summary

Figure 1-1 | US Packaging Market for Recycled Plastics

2. Recycling Industry Overview

Figure 2-1 | Lifecycle of Plastic

Figure 2-2 | Packaging & the Recycling Industry

3. Recycled Plastic Supply & Demand

Figure 3-1 | Recycled Plastic for Packaging Applications Base Scenario, 2020

Figure 3-2 | Packaging Demand for Recycled Plastic: Supply Constrained vs. Non-Supply Constrained Comparison, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

4. Factors Impacting Plastic Recycling Activity

Figure 4-1 | Virgin & Recycled Plastic Resin Price Comparison, 2020 (cents per pound)

5. Consumers & Plastic Recycling

Figure 5-1 | Consumer Perception of the Eco-Friendliness of Packaging Materials, 2021 (% total respondents)

Figure 5-2 | Features Consumers Especially Look for When Considering "Sustainable" or "Eco-Friendly" Packaging, 2021 (% total respondents)

Figure 5-3 | Consumer Recycling Frequency by Type of Packaging, 2021 (% of respondents with access to recycling for each type)

8. Plastic Waste Collection for Recycling

Figure 8-1 | Post-Consumer Plastic Waste Collected for Recycling by Source, 2020 (billion pounds)

Figure 8-2 | Plastic Bottles Collected for Recycling by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 8-3 | PET Bottles Collected for Recycling, 2010 - 2025 (million pounds)

Figure 8-4 | HDPE & LDPE Bottles Collected for Recycling, 2010 - 2025 (million pounds)

Figure 8-5 | PP & Other Bottles Collected for Recycling, 2010 - 2025 (million pounds)

Figure 8-6 | Rigid Plastic & Foam Collected for Recycling by Source, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 8-7 | Rigid Plastic & Foam Packaging Collected for Recycling, 2010 - 2025 (million pounds)

Figure 8-8 | Rigid Plastic & Foam Collected from Motor Vehicles for Recycling, 2010 - 2025 (million pounds)

Figure 8-9 | All Other Rigid Plastic & Foam Collected for Recycling, 2010 - 2025 (million pounds)

Figure 8-10 | Carpet & Fiber Collected for Recycling, 2010 - 2025 (million pounds)

Figure 8-11 | Flexible Packaging Collected for Recycling by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

9. Recycled Plastic Resins in Packaging

Figure 9-1 | Recycled Plastic Demand in Packaging by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 9-2 | Virgin PET Supply & Demand, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 9-3 | Waste PET Collected & Recycled PET Supply, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 9-4 | Recycled PET Demand in Packaging by Product, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 9-5 | Virgin HDPE Supply & Demand, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 9-6 | HDPE Waste Collected & Recycled HDPE Supply, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 9-7 | Recycled HDPE Demand in Packaging by Product, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 9-8 | Virgin LDPE & LLDPE Resin Supply & Demand, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 9-9 | LDPE & LLDPE Waste Collected & Recycled LDPE & LLDPE Supply, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 9-10 | Packaging Demand for Recycled LDPE & LLDPE by Product, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 9-11 | Virgin Polypropylene & Other Plastic Resin Supply & Demand, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 9-12 | PP & Other Plastic Waste Collected & Recycled PP & Other Plastic Supply, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 9-13 | Recycled PP & Other Plastic Resin Demand in Packaging by Product, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

10. Recycled Plastics in Packaging Products

Figure 10-1 | Recycled Plastic Demand in Packaging by Product, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 10-2 | Bottles: Demand for Recycled Plastic by Application, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 10-3 | Food & Beverage Bottles: Demand for Recycled Plastic by Application, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 10-4 | Non-Food Bottle Demand for Recycled Plastic by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 10-5 | Demand for Recycled Plastic in Other Rigid Plastic Packaging by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 10-6 | Demand for Recycled Plastic in Flexible Packaging by Product, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 10-7 | Retail Bags: Demand for Recycled Plastic by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 10-8 | Trash Bags: Demand for Recycled Plastic by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)

Figure 10-9 | Other Flexible Packaging: Demand for Recycled Plastic by Resin, 2010 - 2030 (million pounds)


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