Reports of increased recycling rates, particularly of PET bottles, are showing success in closing the loop. The latest report from sustainability consultancy Eunomia, in collaboration with the European Federation of Bottled Water (EFBW), Petcore Europe, and Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE), projects a strong trend toward the use of recycled PET (rPET) thanks to increased demand.
The combination of significant improvements in recycling processes and increased quality of materials could result in rPET accounting for as much as 55% of total PET demand by 2030. This is particularly evident for food-grade rPET used in bottle-to-bottle processes, where incentives such as the producers’ voluntary pledges and rPET content targets set in the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive will further accelerate production, said the information.
The market for trays and sheets, which currently absorbs 20% of rPET, is also considered in the report. It estimates that the average recycled content of PET trays produced in Europe is 50% and this trend is set to continue.
Main obstacles identified are collection and design for recycling. To achieve a 90% collection target of beverage bottles and meet expanding demand, well-conceived, harmonized collection schemes must be implemented with the help of local and national authorities, said the report. In parallel, a common approach to recyclability and product design must be established. Initiatives such as European PET Bottle Platform (EPBP) and RecyClass have laid the groundwork, providing a common direction for the industry toward improving packaging recyclability.
Furthermore, increasing trust and traceability of the recycled materials by building on schemes such as EuCertPlast and establishing EU-wide certification of recycled materials would ensure the optimal uptake of rPET.
In the United States, the Every Bottle Back initiative is making good headway, especially in the state of Minnesota, where local beverage distributors are pushing the recycling message: PET bottles are not single-use. “Not all plastics are equal,” said Tim Wilkin, President of the Minnesota Beverage Association (MBA), in an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I think there’s a growing need and demand for recycled material. We’ve always designed our bottles and caps with the intention that they be re-used.”
Led by the American Beverage Association, the Coca-Cola Co., Keurig Dr Pepper, and PepsiCo have joined with environment and sustainability leaders, including the World Wildlife Fund, the Recycling Partnership, and Closed Loop Partners, to launch the Every Bottle Back initiative. The goal of the initiative is to decrease the use of virgin plastic by increasing the collection of plastic bottles so they can be remade into new bottles. This will reduce the beverage industry’s use of new plastic and ensure the bottles and caps don’t wind up in places they shouldn’t, like lakes, rivers, or parks, or wasted in landfills.
“Our hope is that Every Bottle Back will be a catalyst for getting industry, environmental groups and local government to come together to develop new, innovative ideas to increase collection of our valuable plastic bottles so they can be remade into new bottles or products,” said Wilkins.
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