Plastics are woven into almost every aspect of our lives. They are used to manufacture everyday products like toys, furniture, and beverage containers. Plastics make up almost 13 percent of the municipal solid waste. The majority of plastics come from containers and packaging but they are also found in durable and non-durable goods such as diapers, trash bags, cups, appliances, and furniture. The overall recycling rate is 9 percent, resulting in 2.8 million tons in 2012.
Did You Know?
- 32 million tons of plastic waste were generated in 2012.
- The United States generated almost 14 million tons of plastics as containers and packaging in 2012. This was made up of 11 million tons as durable goods such as appliances, and almost 7 million tons as nondurable goods, such as plates and cups.
- Only 9 percent of the total plastic waste generated in 2012 was recovered for recycling.
- In 2012, the category of plastics which includes bags, sacks, and wraps was recycled at about 12 percent.
Plastics from municipal solid waste are usually collected from curbside recycling bins or drop-off recycling centers. They are then sorted by plastic type, baled, and sent to a reclaiming facility. Trash and dirt is sorted out at the facility where the plastic is washed and ground into small flakes. The flakes are then dried, melted, filtered, and formed into pellets that are shipped to product manufacturing plants where they are made into new plastic products.