The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and Earth911 has released the results of an online poll illustrating the reasons for confusion over plastics recycling and the need for municipalities to better educate consumers on how to treat recyclables. The results indicate that 65 percent of people do not understand what is acceptable when recycling plastics.

"With more and more plastic being produced, it essential that plastic products that have reached end of life enter the recycling stream," says Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. "As long as confusion reigns, consumers are apt to throw plastics away that should be recycled. This Earth911/ISRI Opinion Poll demonstrates a strong need for additional education, particularly by municipalities, on what can be recycled and how to do it."
ISRI is working to clear up confusion by developing plastic scrap specifications and hosting educational workshops for the industry. It is also partnering with other stakeholders to address this issue of redefining the resin 1-7 code numbers through its membership in ASTM.
In 2011, 4.5 billion pounds of post-consumer plastic including, bottles, bags, film, and non-rigid plastics were recycled in the United States. The use of recycled plastics is instrumental in reducing energy consumption as it takes up to 87 percent less energy to produce plastic from recyclables than from virgin materials. Global production of plastics is expanding. Between 1950 and 2011, production grew at an average rate of nine percent annually, reaching 280 million tons with projected future growth.
The poll question and answer results are below:
What do you find most confusing about recycling plastic?
1. Knowing how much food contamination is acceptable. (37 percent)
2. Understanding what types of plastic my municipality accepts in their curbside recycling program. (28 percent)
3. Finding where I can recycle plastics. (18 percent)
4. The meaning of the recycling numbers. (17 percent)
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