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Once recovered and sorted, used plastic packaging typically has been mechanically processed/recycled: cleaned, heated, and formed back into resin pellets (the basic plastic raw material). This recycled material is then reused to make new plastic products, parts, and packaging.

ACC’s Plastics Division and its member companies have invested billions of dollars over the past few decades in establishing and expanding the infrastructure for mechanical recycling. Plastics recycling has grown nearly every year since we began tracking progress in the 1990s, and it’s now easier than ever to choose packaging and products made with recycled plastics, even those made with ocean plastics.

However, mechanical recycling has limitations and on its own likely will not lead to the goal of 100 percent of plastic packaging recycled by 2040. Advanced plastics recycling technologies will be needed to meet the goal.

To optimize mechanical recycling, ACC’s Plastics Division supports multiple efforts to modernize and expand mechanical recycling. These initiatives support efforts to increase the reliable supply of materials made with used plastics, making it easier for companies to increase their use of these materials and meet recycling pledges.

Trends/Reports – Plastic packaging recycling has grown nearly every year since tracking began in the 1990s. ACC’s Plastic Division measures and reports annual recycling rates for:

  • plastic bottles (containers with a neck narrower than its body),
  • non-bottles rigid plastics,
  • and film (flexible polyethylene bags and wraps).