5

By most widely used I mean in terms of sales annually (worldwide). With consumer products I follow the definition found on the BusinessDictionary, referring to merchandise or other item of common or daily use, ordinarily bought by individuals or households for private consumption.

Behind that question is my interest in the visibility and presence of recycled plastic products in everyday life of households.

4

I think this is a very difficult question to answer, but I'd like to try and see how far I get.

Various types of plastic are being recycled for a lot of different purposes. The number of end-products appears to be very large and continues to expand, making any list probably obsolete within one or two years. This makes it difficult to get a complete picture and identify the most-sold products. However, I've checked some sources and came up with a list of products that are made from recycled plastic as well as some usage numbers.

  • PET: bottles, containers, carpet, clothing, industrial strapping, rope, upholstery fabrics, boat sails, automotive parts, fibrefill for winter jackets and sleeping bags, construction materials. Source: PET Manufacturers in Europe and Wikipedia.

    The website Petcore mentions that in 2011 39% of all recovered European PET was used to produce polyester fibers (e.g. clothing and carpets) and 25% is used for packaging (e.g. water or soft drink containers, fruit boxes, household products)

  • PVC: pipes, window profiles, flooring, foils, traffic cones, hoses. Source: Recovinyl and Wikipedia.

    Wikipedia also mentions that the majority of recycled PVC (75%) is used for floors.

  • HDPE: plastic lumber, tables, roadside curbs, benches, truck cargo liners, trash receptacles, stationery (e.g. rulers) and other durable plastic products. Source Wikipedia

Personally I suspect PET bottles, containers and carpets, PVC flooring and HDPE furniture are the top 5 most-sold recycled consumer products, but admittedly this is just my own best guess and I cannot back it up with reliable numbers.

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    One thing to know about plastic recycling is that it's mostly a one-time thing. Steel, aluminum, glass etc can go round and round. Paper walks its way down a chain from fine paper to cardboard. Plastic gets one redo and then whatever it is made into typically can't be recycled. (Some exceptions, agreed, but mostly.) – Kate Gregory Jun 3 '15 at 18:34
  • @KateGregory Thank you for your comment! Do you have more information on this? For HDPE you may be right, but I know that PET can be recycled more than once. Here a manufacturer mentions that it's possible to recycle PET at food grade quality up to 10 times (admittedly it doesn't say they do that). This document mentions that PVC can be recycled 6 to 7 times. – THelper Jun 3 '15 at 19:31
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    Well, just look at the list in your answer: carpet, clothing, fabric, rope etc - those can't be recycled. if 39% of PET goes to clothes and carpets, that's a one-way trip. And for PVC and HDPE none of the items you list there can be recycled. I've heard this meme many times and these lists really seem to back it up. – Kate Gregory Jun 3 '15 at 19:33

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