The Canadian plastics industry grew by 45 per cent between 1986 and 1997 — a growth rate three times that of other manufacturing industries and second only to electronics. With a total capacity of about 3.5-million tonnes of resin per annum, this economic behemoth accounted for $35.9-billion of economic activity last year.
Plastic is truly ubiquitous; 34 per cent of it is used in packaging, 26 per cent in construction, 18 per cent in the transportation sector, 5 per cent in the electronic goods sector and another 5 per cent is consumed by furniture manufacturers. In the United States, demand for PET bottles and jars has experienced doubledigit compound annual growth rates for nearly a decade. This is not surprising when one considers that plastic is a light, flexible, durable and versatile packaging material.
So what’s the problem?
The economics of recycling plastic are dismal. Low recovery rates and weak and fluctuating demand continue to undermine the establishment of large-scale, high-throughput recycling operations that could make quality recycled resins cost competitive with their virgin counterparts.