SPI and ACC partner on rigid plastics packaging, thermoforming
11. December 2013
Can polyethylene terephthalate (PET) thermoforms enjoy the same recycling rates as their bottle brethren? Increasing thermoformed packaging reclaim, and that of other rigid plastics, will likely just be one goal of a new collaboration between SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association and the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Plastics Division. Variations on the word “recycling” occurred seven times in the one-page/577-word release.
On Dec. 11, the trade groups announced they will “align the initiatives and programs of ACC’s Rigid Plastics Packaging Group (RPPG) with the resources and membership of SPI’s Thermoformers Committee.”
In practice, Dan Mohs, chief executive officer at thermoformer Placon Corp., who was a past member of RPPG and currently chairs the SPI Thermoformers Committee, stated that SPI will form a Rigid Plastics Division (RPD) that will include two subgroups.
The RPPG will merge with the SPI Thermoformers Committee, creating one of those subgroups, which will focus on packaging, while Transportation and Industrial Rigid Plastics comprise the other subgroup. The new structure will be on display at a Rigid Plastics Packaging Conference, which is planned for this spring, Mohs said.
NAPCOR, the National Assn. for PET Container Resources, reported that in 2012, the U.S. and Canada recycled 47.8 million lbs of PET thermoforms. When exports and other claims are added in, the result was a modest increase over 2011’s reported recovery of 45 million lbs.
PET had an overall recycling rate of 30.8% in 2022, with a record 1.718 billion lbs of post-consumer bottles collected, according to NAPCOR’s annual report. NAPCOR noted that work remains to be done to better collect PET thermoforms, however. That number is 36 times the amount of PET thermoforms recycled, per NAPCOR, but of course, despite growth in PET thermoforming, at the expense of polystyrene and polyvinyl chloride, bottle remain the dominant output market for the material.
Since 2009, the group has pushed the “removal of obstacles to PET thermoform recycling” noting the initiative is a “top priority…not only as a reflection of proper stewardship for PET’s fastest growing packaging segment, but as a way of increasing feedstock opportunities for reclaimers.”
That feedstock is needed as investment in postconsumer PET recycling capacity, some $75 million in 2012, has created a yawning collection/capacity gap:
The U.S. now has capacity to process significantly more postconsumer PET packaging, both bottles and thermoforms, than is actually collected. In 2013, even if no PET bales are exported, demand by domestic PET reclaimers for recycled material will outstrip supply of collected PET.
An issue the ACC and SPI can now address together.