2020 U.S. Plastic Recycling Survey

Report: The Traceable Facts for Determining Validity of Recyclable Claims and Labels on U.S. Plastic Products - posted on Greenpeace's website here.

A comprehensive “Traceable Facts” survey of post-consumer plastic product collection, sortation and reprocessing in the United States (U.S.) was performed to determine the legitimacy of “recyclable” claims and labels on consumer plastic products. The survey is based on current conditions in October 2019 to January 2020 and U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Green Guides requirements for product claims and labeling. 

Accurate recyclable claims and labels serve three valuable functions: truthful advertising to consumers, prevention of harmful contamination in America’s recycling system, and identification of products for elimination or redesign to reduce plastic waste and pollution.

Key results of the Traceable Facts survey include:

  1. Only PET #1 and HDPE #2 plastic bottles and jugs may be legitimately labeled as recyclable in the U.S. today.

  2. Common plastic pollution items, including single use plastic food service and convenience products, may not legitimately be claimed as recyclable across the U.S.

  3. Plastics #3-7 have negligible-to-negative value and are effectively a category of products that municipal recycling programs may collect, but do not actually recycle.  Plastic #3-7 waste collected in municipal systems across the country is being sent to landfills or incinerated. 

  4. Many full body shrink sleeves on PET #1 and HDPE #2 bottles and jugs make them non-recyclable.


2020 U.S. MRF Survey - Transparent Account of Plastic Item Acceptance at U.S. Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs)

An objective survey of acceptance of plastic items at the U.S. Residential Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) for curbside recycling was performed from October to December 2019 and reverified in January 2020. A total of 377 operating facilities were identified. The acceptance information was found in the public domain and is publicly shared here to promote transparency and establish a traceable account of facts related to plastic “recyclable” claims and labels. The survey approach is described in detail in the Traceable Facts report. Links to information, including videos of MRF operations, are provided in the spreadsheet.

Use of the Survey: The 2020 U.S. MRF Survey results may be quoted with attribution to Greenpeace and The Last Beach Cleanup. The information in the survey spreadsheet may be quoted with attribution to the original source of the information (provided by links in the spreadsheet). The spreadsheet itself is the intellectual property of The Last Beach Cleanup and may not be reproduced without express written consent.


Survey Updates: Submissions by MRFs and local governments are welcomed to update or correct the information found and presented. Links to publicly available information are required to revise the traceable account. Since external links may change at any time, we request notification of a broken link. Please send updates with links to lastbeachcleanup@gmail.com

Downloadable Documents:

2020 U.S. MRF Survey Summary

Latest Version: January 15, 2020

2020 U.S. MRF Survey Spreadsheet

Catalytic Initiatives to Move from Awareness of Plastic Pollution to Widespread Action and Achievement