In 2007, more than 830 million pounds of plastic bags and film were recycled, a 27 percent increase from 2005.


Lab / Factoids

Energy Recycling

One ton of recycled plastic saves 5,774 Kwh of energy, 16.3 barrels (685 gallons) of oil, 98 million BTU's of energy, and 30 cubic yards of landfill space.

It takes 1/3 the amount of energy to produce new plastic products from recycled materials instead of raw (virgin) materials. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Recycling a single plastic bottle can light a 60-watt light bulb for six hours.

Inventors / Discoveries

Polystyrene was discovered in 1839 by Eduard Simon.

A plastic that has attracted many youngsters over the years is plastic putty, better known by the trademark name of Silly Putty ®. James Wright, a GE engineer, came upon the material by mixing silicone oil with boric acid. The compound acted very much like rubber in its ability to rebound almost 25 percent higher than a normal rubber ball. This "Nutty Putty" as it was first called, was impervious to rot, soft and maleable, and able to stretch many times its length without tearing. One other unusual quality was that Silly Putty® could copy the image of any printed material that it was pressed upon. In 1949, the material was sold under the trade name of Silly Putty ®, selling faster than any other toy in history with over $6 million in sales for the year. The first man-made plastic was created by Alexander Parkes who publicly demonstrated it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. The material called Parkesine was an organic material derived from cellulose that once heated could be molded, and retained its shape when cooled.

Polyethylene was discovered in 1933 by Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett at the British industrial giant Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). This material evolved into two forms, low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE).

A Du Pont chemist name Roy Plunkett discovered teflon by accident in 1938. During the war, it was used in gaseous-diffusion processes to refine uranium for the atomic bomb, as the process was highly corrosive. By the early 1960s, teflon "non-stick" frying pans were a hot consumer item.

Polyvinyl chloride or PVC was first created by the German chemist Eugen Baumann in 1872. Eugen Baumann never applied for a patent.

Du Pont developed "kevlar," an extremely strong synthetic fiber that was best-known for its use in bullet-proof vests and combat helmets. Kevlar was so remarkable that Du Pont officials actually had to release statements to deny rumors that the company had received the recipe for it from space aliens.

The PET bottle was patented in 1973 by chemist Nathaniel Wyeth (brother of distinguished American painter Andrew Wyeth).

Comparison Stats

According to a 2007 study by Boustead Consulting & Associates, It takes almost four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a polyethylene bag.

During production, plastic bags generate 50 percent less greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, require 70 percent less energy and produce 80 percent less waste than paper alternatives.

Plastic bag production uses less than 4 percent of the water needed to make alternatives and generate 80 percent less waste than its alternatives due to its light weight.

One ton of recycled plastic saves 5,774 Kwh of energy, 16.3 barrels (685 gallons) of oil, 98 million BTU's of energy, and 30 cubic yards of landfill space.

Over 35% of the polyester carpet made and sold in the United States contains PET plastic. It takes 35 PET plastic bottles to make one square yard of polyester carpet.

Comparison Stats / Bottles

It takes 5 recycled two-liter bottles to make enough fiberfill for one ski jacket.

It takes 1,050 recycled milk jugs to make a 6-foot plastic park bench.

It takes 5 PET bottles to make an extra large t-shirt or filling for a ski jacket.

It takes about 25 recycled plastic drinks bottles to make one fleece jacket.

It takes 114 20 oz. PET bottles to make enough fiberfill for a sleeping bag.

2,456 million: Amount, in pounds, of plastic bottles – including PET and HDPE – recycled in 2009, making it a record high.

28% of PET plastic bottles were recycled in 2009.

Recycled PET used in food and beverage bottles increased by 44% in 2009.

Comparison Stats / Bags

About 89 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are used each year in the U.S.

In 2007, more than 830 million pounds of plastic bags and film were recycled, a 27 percent increase from 2005.

In the U.S., almost 80 percent of polyethylene, the type of plastic used to make plastic bags, is produced from natural gas. This includes feedstock, process and transportation energy.

Much of the energy used to make plastic bags is embodied in the bag itself, and since plastic bags are fully recyclable, that energy is available for new products such as composite lumber and decking.

Surveys routinely show that more than 90 percent of consumers reuse their plastic bags at least once for things like wastebasket liners, lunch totes and pet pick‐up.

Four out of five bags in the United States are plastic.

Comparison Stats / General

Plastics play a significant role in the building and construction industry. In fact, the industry is the second largest consumer of plastic, followed only by the packaging industry.

Styrofoam is about 98% percent air.

To assist recycling, the Plastic Bottle Institute of the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) devised the system to mark plastic bottles by type. You'll see a triangle with three "chasing arrows" encasing a number corresponding to the plastic type: PETE, HDPE, PVC, LDPE, PP, PS, and OTHER.

Americans make enough low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic every year to shrink-wrap the state of Texas.

More than 20,000 U.S. facilities produce plastic materials, products and equipment.

46 plastics collection programs were added to U.S. communities in 2009.

In recent years the plastic recycling business in the United States is nearly tripled. There are more than 1600 businesses involved in recycling plastics.


Through the use of plastic, the average passenger car has lost 145 pounds since 1988. The lighter weight translates to better fuel efficiency and has saved approximately 21 million barrels of oil.

Ford Motor Company indicates that 75% of every vehicle is recyclable.

Home Efficiency

Refrigerators use one type of plastic foam for insulation purposes, while the interior is made from a different type of plastic that is durable and easy to clean. Without plastic, these products would last about half as long and would use 25-30% more energy.

When properly installed, plastic insulation can cut heat or cold loss at home or school by up to 70%, making it so much warmer or cooler, cozier and energy-efficient!

Innovative technology and special plastic lenses used in today's LEDs means that they are twice as bright as conventional types using the same amount of energy!