Bans on single used plastic bags are becoming widespread. The results of them and responses to them have been mixed, and seem to depend on a number of local factors. Whether or not it is the best approach to reducing plastic waste and consumption remains unclear.


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If we look at a long term trend concerning another plastic product, it would appear that the U.S. is eager to do their part to get the most out of this useful and sometimes controversial material.

Record-Breaking Material Recovery
For the 25th year in a row, plastic bottle recycling rates in the U.S. have increased. According to new figures released by the Association of Plastic Recyclers and the American Chemistry Council, plastic bottle recycling in 2015 has resulted in 97 million pounds of material and an increase of 3.3%.

Since the American Chemistry Council began their plastic recycling survey in 1990, three billion pounds of plastic has been recycled. This means that reclamation of HDPE (high-density polyethylene) has reached record breaking rates, and that adds up to more than just a reduction in waste.

The Reasons Behind The Results
The increase in bottle recovery rates show that American citizens, on average, are increasingly willing to participate in the recycling process, but mostly when that process is made easy.

This is accomplished when local recycling programs are consistently available and plastic waste receptacles are present in public spaces.

The amount of the plastic recovered may not even reflect the recycling effort that’s actually happening as manufacturers are increasingly reducing the amount of plastic used in each bottle.

Recycle Bags Before Banning Them?
Considering the lasting and growing participation in plastic bottle recycling—and the potential for recycling plastic bags—a better, more citizen-friendly option for recycling single-use plastic bags could address many of the waste issues that plastic bag bans seek to mitigate.

With the results of current plastic bottle recycling rates in mind, do you think this same approach could help eliminate the need for plastic bag bans and still make consumers feel good about having a choice? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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