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U.S. plastic bottle recycling rates by material type 2018

The recycling rate of Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles in the United States is approximately 30 percent. PET is a thermoplastic polymer resin and is typically used to create plastic beverage bottles. Since 2013, the gross recycling rate of PET plastic bottles in the U.S. has been declining.

Plastic waste generation

  The use of plastics began to gain popularity in the 1960’s as mass production costs fell. Since then, plastic waste generation in the U.S. has increased dramatically. By 1990, the volume of plastic generated in municipal solid waste amounted to 6.8 million tons. This figure had risen above 31,000 tons by 2010 and has continued to increase.

Plastic waste exports

  The United States is the largest exporter of plastic waste worldwide. In 2018, the greatest share of plastic waste from the U.S. was imported by Malaysia. Plastic waste exports are often categorized as recycled. However, this waste typically ends up in developing nations with poor waste management facilities.

Rate of plastic bottles recycling in the U.S. in 2018, by material type

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Release date

December 2019


United States

Survey time period


Supplementary notes

PET: polyethylene terephthalate
HDPE: high-density polyethylene
PVC: polyvinyl chloride
LDPE: low-density polyethylene
PP: polypropylene
* The majority of PVC and LDPE recycled were as part of commingled bottle and container bales.
** About 3% of polypropylene bottles were deliberately collected for recycling as polypropylene bottles and not mixed material.

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Statistics on "Municipal solid waste in the U.S."

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