Plastics

The Carolinas (North and South Carolina) have a robust plastic recycling industry that provides readily available markets for the region. The industry employs more than 1,300 people, processes more than 750 million pounds of plastic per year and had sales of nearly $450 million in 2012. The companies accept a wide variety of plastic from residential and industrial sources and process it into feedstock for new products ranging from food and beverage containers to carpet, textiles and automotive parts.


Despite the strong, regional markets, plastic recyclers in the Carolinas estimate that only about 24 percent of the material they process comes from the two states. Given that, the states have formed the Carolinas Plastics Recycling Council - which is a partnership of recycling companies and other stakeholders dedicated to the increased recovery of plastic in the region. 

South Carolina has approximately 100 companies in the plastics recycling value chain. Sun Fibers in Richburg is a plastics reclaiming company that can take the entire plastic bottle and convert it into a resin for a fiber end-use application. Wellman Plastics Recycling has paused its plastic bottle recycling capacity until markets for PET get better. Regional market demand is 347,500 tons of material. An estimated 550,092 tons (12.7 percent of MSW) of plastics material is generated. According to DHEC, only 17,311.26 tons were recycled in FY 15, up 534 tons since last year.

Industrial plastics (some common abbreviations are ABS, PC/ABS, PP, Nylon, HIPS, LLDPE, LDPE, PE, PS) are generated from automotive and packaging industries. There are 15 industrial plastics recyclers in the state. There are 13 textile recyclers in the state. Textile recyclers handle polyester, nylon and other non-woven materials that are part of the plastics recycling value chain.

 

Fast Facts

  • South Carolina recycled 16,777 tons of plastic in 2014
  • By only recycling about 25% of the plastic containers that were generated, South Carolina missed out on $12 million in potential revenue
  • The plastic container industry employs nearly 1,350 people in the Carolinas
  • Bottle caps are recyclable (APR)
  • In the past year, the plastic container industry in the Carolinas had sales of nearly $450 million and spent more than $126 million in initial investments and facility expansions