PET recycling increases in Washington state
By Jared Paben, Plastics Recycling Update
Jan. 8, 2015
Recycling of PET bottles in Washington state continues to outpace recycling of other plastics diverted from the municipal waste stream, according to state data.
In 2013, an additional 2,500 tons of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles were recovered in the state, an increase of 13 percent over the year before, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Recycling of other plastics — categorized as low-density polyethylene (LDPE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), “other recyclable plastics” and “mixed plastics” — decreased a combined 2,444 tons, or 4 percent.
It was the second year in a row PET recycling grew more than other plastics.
Dan Weston, recycling data analyst at the Department of Ecology, said he doesn’t know exactly why PET recycling saw such a significant bump. But, according to Weston, as more residents gain access to curbside recycling, it would make sense that recycling of PET bottles, which are some of the most well-known and easiest-to-recycle items, would increase.
“A lot of people are still confused about which plastics are recyclable and what the little numbers on the containers mean, but it seems like we’ve got [PET] plastic bottles figured out,” he wrote in an email.
And bottle recycling bins can be found in most public areas, which helps keep them from the trash.
Washington does not have a container redemption law.
Weston added he wouldn’t be surprised if there was some “noise in the data."
For example, in 2013, an increase in material from King County was reported, while a decrease was reported from Seattle, the largest city in the county. The material may have actually been from inside Seattle but the facility mistakenly recorded it as originating elsewhere in King County.
If that’s the case, the number for PET would have been inflated, according to Weston. That’s because the state uses a formula to estimate how much of recovered commingled plastics is PET, and that formula is different depending on where the material originated. The assumed percentage of PET plastics is higher for King County than from Seattle itself.