More Recycled PET in Containers
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles don’t need to be recycled back into PET bottles. Market forces that affect the value of recycled PET are diverse. They include, but are not limited to:
- the cost of competing raw materials and virgin resin - the availability and value of off-spec resin - the quality, quantity, and yield of the material collected - costs associated with collection, transportation, sorting, cleaning and washing; - and a diversity of end uses.
A proclamation that soft drink PET containers should be recycled back into their original use is a philosophical point of view—one that to date has not been supported by data showing superior environmental benefit or improved economics.
When soft drink bottlers used significant levels of recycled PET in bottles in the early 1990s, the value of baled bottles was in the range of six to 10 cents per pound, falling within the historical average. When baled bottle values hit their historic high in 1995 (in the range of 20 to 25 cents per pound nationally and as high as 32 to 35 cents in the Midwest), soft drink bottlers postponed using recycled PET for more than two years.
Mandatory use of a recovered material back into the same product stifles innovation. Bottle-to-bottle recycling uses more energy and financial resources to sufficiently clean material to meet quality and safety specifications than is required by carpet and fiber applications. In recent economic cycles, bottle manufacturers have had to out-bid other end users such as fiber and carpet manufacturers if they wanted to secure material for food grade bottle-to-bottle applications.
Recently, the newsletter INCPEN reported that Dr. Helmut Schnurer of the German Environment Ministry warned against requiring the use of secondary materials in new products as a means of increasing recycling. “This type of state intervention is characteristic of centrally planned economies and therefore hardly compatible with market mechanisms. Binding targets concerning the use of certain quantities and types of secondary raw materials . . . during the manufacture of new goods impair competition and block innovation.” He continued by saying, “[Targets] would require another involved administrative control and supervisory regime to discourage abuse.”
Recycled PET is a commodity with many end uses. If recovered soft drink PET was mandated or artificially limited to being recycled only back into itself, businesses that currently use recycled PET would lose an important raw material source. Emerging entrepreneurs looking at recycled PET for insulation, high-quality merchandise, uniforms and so on would be locked out of the process.
What should be done? Extend and revitalize promotion of existing collection programs; improve performance and yield of existing recycling facilities; increase research into development of comprehensive collection strategies and new end uses for recycled PET including, but not limited to, bottle-to-bottle applications by all participants in the value chain.
It is important to note that the soft drink industry does support “broadcycling” of PET into various end uses. Currently, there are a number of industry initiatives under development, ranging from uniforms and transport packaging to bottle-to-bottle technologies that will help expand the end-use capacity for recycled PET. For bottle-to-bottle recycling to be sustainable, it must meet stringent quality standards and achieve regulatory non-objection. It also cannot cost our consumers more money.
https://www.naraloca.com is a recycled plastic specialist that concerned about the earth and environment by promoting the use of recycled PET flakes, recycled PET, recycled PP & HDPE granules to various plastic and polyester manufacturers.