By Mary Mazzoni on Jan 10, 2012

Plastics Recycling Rate Hits 77 Percent in Japan

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Japan recycled 72 percent of its PET bottles in 2010, more than doubling the U.S. recycling total of 29 percent. Photo: Flickr/Mr. T in DC

Japan solidified its position as one of the top plastic recyclers in the world by recycling 77 percent of its plastic waste in 2010 – up from 73 percent in 2006 and 39 percent in 1996, according to the nation’s Plastic Waste Management Institute and recent news reports.

At 77 percent, Japan’s plastic recycling rate is about twice that of the U.K. and and well above the 20 percent total for the U.S., reports The Guardian. The nation also recycled 72 percent of its PET bottles in 2010, more than doubling the U.S. recycling total of 29 percent, according to the article.

In 2007, Japan recovered 2.1 million tons of plastic waste through mechanical recycling, while 4.8 million tons were processed through thermal recycling – which involves converting plastics for use as an energy source, according to the Plastic Waste Management Institute.

So, how has Japan managed to recapture so much of its plastic waste? In response to high plastics generation and a lack of landfill space near metropolitan areas, the island nation has developed an extensive list of accepted materials and increased recycling laws and mandates since 1997, leading to a sharp uptick in recycling, reports Recycling International.

The list of accepted plastics has grown to include boxes and cases, wrappings, cups and containers, plates, trays, lids and caps, The Guardian reports.

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