The Numbers on Plastics

Look for these images on your plastics to assist in recycling efforts. Image courtesy of

For reliable answers to all of your most pressing questions, Earth911 put together a quick cheat-sheet of facts about plastics recycling from some experts. Read on to learn more about recycling common plastics and finally find out what those resin codes really mean.

Plastics recycling fast facts

1. While overall recovery of plastics for recycling is relatively small - 2.1 million tons, or 6.8 percent of plastics generation in 2008 - recovery of some plastic containers has reached higher levels. PET soft drink bottles were recovered at a rate of 37 percent in 2008. Recovery of HDPE milk and water bottles was estimated at about 28 percent in 2008.
Source: U.S. EPA

2. The amount of plastics generation in municipal solid waste (MSW) has increased from less than 1 percent in 1960 to 12.0 percent in 2008.
Source: U.S. EPA

3. Today, 80 percent of Americans have access to a plastics recycling program.
Source: American Chemistry Council

4. In 2008, the United States generated about 13 million tons of plastics in the MSW stream as containers and packaging, almost 7 million tons as nondurable goods, and almost 11 million tons as durable goods. The total amount of plastics in MSW - about 30 million tons - represented 12 percent of total MSW generation in 2008.
Source: U.S. EPA