Is Plastic Really Recyclable? For Acrylic, the Answer is Yes.

Minneapolis-based Recrylic helps turn used fixtures into 100% recycled materials.

Is plastic really recyclable?  According to various studies, most plastic ends up in landfills. National Geographic, for example, reports that 79% of all plastic ever created has ended up in landfill or the natural environment, with only 9% being recycled.

For many businesses, however, the good news is that one type of plastic – acrylic – is 100% recyclable.  Introduced in early 2022, Recrylic®, the world’s only line of certified recycled acrylic sheets, is helping to ensure that used acrylic gets collected and recycled wherever possible.

Acrylic (sometimes known as plexiglass) is a commonly used material – seen in everything from luxury retail displays to artwork to architectural elements and more. For designers, architects and engineers, acrylic is a popular alternative to glass and other materials due to its durability, versatile characteristics and affordable cost. Unfortunately, though, it also takes about two tons of petroleum products to produce one ton of non-recycled virgin acrylic.

Illuminated retail display built with acrylic

“For years, our clients have asked for a recycled acrylic that looks, performs and costs the same as virgin acrylic,” said Recrylic CEO Bill McNeely Jr.  “ESG commitments are driving changes in marketing, design and construction choices – and using recycled materials is one way that our clients can meet their sustainability goals.”

Working with multiple suppliers, McNeely and his team were able to bring a new product to market that met all client requirements and is both 100% recycled and 100% recyclable.  That makes Recrylic a natural alternative to virgin acrylic and other materials.

Collecting Used Items for Recycling

Used acrylic comes from two primary sources:

  • Scrap created during the fabrication of acrylic items
  • Used items at the end of their useful life

Recrylic collects that scrap, sorts it and sends materials for recycling as Recrylic or into other recycling streams, as appropriate.  And unlike other plastics that may degrade after 2-3 cycles, Recrylic can be recycled indefinitely, creating a closed-loop lifecycle.

A Recrylic study in 2021 found that a third of respondents were sending at least half of their used fixtures to landfill.  And 73% were interested in an option to collect and recycle their used acrylic.

Starting this year, Recrylic has begun to do just that.  One recent example found Recrylic collecting more than a ton of protective dividers used by United Healthcare pharmacy-based kiosks.  And conversations are under way with a number of leading retailers on the best way to collect their used materials for recycling.

A blue healthcare related kiosk in a pharmacy
Recrylic recently collected more than a ton of acrylic dividers used with popular pharmacy kiosks.

In the first nine months of 2022, Recrylic already shipped more than 60 tons of scrap to be processed as recycled acrylic.  McNeely expects that number to grow steadily as more companies become aware of Recrylic – and also seek ways to recycle their used items.

Making an Impact

The recycling numbers are starting to add up.  According to a pending study commissioned by Recrylic, producing each pound of virgin acrylic requires about 3.3 pounds of petroleum-based products.  That means that producing 60 tons of virgin acrylic, for example, would require about 198 tons of fossil fuels.  Using that much fossil fuel releases about 619 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere – or the equivalent of about 121 cars driven for an entire year.

Producing an equivalent amount of Recrylic removes about 85% of CO2 emissions from the equation – while also reducing landfill and water use.  At the same time, Recrylic looks, performs and costs the same as virgin acrylic.  That makes choosing Recrylic over virgin acrylic an easy choice for many clients.

“We are committed to helping our clients meet and exceed their sustainability goals,” said McNeely.  “Using recycled materials while also providing a mechanism for collecting and recycling used items is just one of the many ways we can do so.”

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