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3/10/2016 | 2 MINUTE READ

Ways to Grow PET Packaging Recycling

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Global commodities markets are placing intense price pressure on all players in the PET supply chain, as reclaimers and PRF operators suffer tight margins due to low resin pricing.


As a result, current market dynamics will cause realignment in the recycling sector, according to Rick Moore, executive director of NAPCOR (National Association for PET Container Resources, Florence, KY). Speaking at The Packaging Conference (Feb. 8-10; Henderson, Nev.), Moore said he believes that the recycling supply and demand will be strong despite inconsistency in certain end-use markets.


Overall, however, Moore noted that PET bottle collection rates in 2014 were just at 31%, according to a report by NAPCOR and The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR).


“31 percent—it’s embarrassing, and it’s something we have to do a better job on,” Moore said.


Moore said that the growth of the PET packaging industry is closely tied to recyclability and its ability to use recycled content. Instead of focusing on the current doom and gloom mood in the recycling industry, he turned attention into potential new growth markets in recycling: non-clear PET bottles and PET thermoform packaging.


NAPCOR has launched a non-clear PET packaging recycling initiative with the goal to increase recycling and develop additional sustainable markets for non-clear PET containers. This includes identifying existing and potential end-markets for non-clear PET as well as recognizing obstacles to sustainable markets and methods to overcome them.


The market for non-clear PET bottles is projected to double from 2 to 4 percent of the bottle stream in the coming years, Moore said.


“The non-clear PET packaging recycling initiative is a new growth market, and we want to make sure there is a sustainable market for the containers,” he said. “NAPCOR is determining potential pathways of material flow as well as having launched material evaluations and market development efforts.”


Another area of potential growth is PET thermoform recycling. Here the goal is to make recycling PET thermoforms as easy as recycling PET bottles, without harming bottle recycling infrastructure. Some of the strategies include working to achieve a board acceptance of PET thermoforms by PET reclaimers and broadcasting a consistent pro-PET recycling message to communities and MRF operators. 


“We’re positive about the PET industry and its future and believe recycling supply and demand will continue to be resilient,” Moore said. “The price has to be there but we do think the two will come together. I don’t want to trivialize the pressure but many of the issues we are currently facing in the industry, we have faced before.”


“We came out of 2009 and had growth, and we will see that again,” he said. “We do have challenges, certainly yes. But I do look forward to the future because I believe the PET package has a great story to tell and it will continue.”