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Use of rPET drastically cuts carbon footprint

ALPA rPET study team
rPET results in ~ 80% lower carbon dioxide emissions compared with use of new resin, making it all the more important to recover and recycle PET packaging.

Recycled PET (rPET) results in 79% lower carbon dioxide emissions compared to virgin polymers according to a new study released by PET Recycling Team GmbH (Wöllersdorf, Germany) a wholly owned subsidiary of ALPLA (Geldern, Germany). The findings of the study were conducted by denkstatt GmbH (Vienna, Austria) on behalf of ALPLA which has been working on PET recycling for more than 20 years.

The results of the study exceeds previous assumptions in showing a significantly higher savings than previously assumed. The rPET produced by PET Recycling Team GmbH in Wöllersdorf has a carbon footprint of 0.45 kg CO2 equivalent per kilogram of rPET. Virgin PET, or new material, accounts for a CO2 equivalent of 2.15 kg per kilogram. This corresponds to a CO2 equivalent of 1.7 kg or 79% lower greenhouse gas emissions for rPET.

“The savings for a single kilogram of rPET are enough to power a 13-watt bulb continuously for twenty days in the Austrian power mix,” notes plant manager Peter Fröschel.

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The carbon footprint was calculated in accordance with ISO 14044, starting with the collection and sorting of used PET bottles, covering transportation to the recycling plant in Wöllersdorf, through to washing, processing and granulating. The analysis is based on the mass and energy balance (electricity and gas consumption) for 2016 at the Wöllersdorf recycling plant in Austria.

ALPLA operates recycling enterprises at three sites – a joint venture in Mexico, the wholly owned subsidiary PET Recycling Team in Wöllersdorf and a new recycling plant built in southern Poland in 2013. The annual capacity of these plants is around 65,000 tonnes of food-grade rPET.

“We are witnessing a clear trend towards PET packaging,” says Fröschel, “and not just in summer, when the beverage industry enjoys a boom due to hot weather. This makes it all the more important to collect used packaging and return recyclable materials to the production process. Our recycling plants play a key role in this regard.”

Ed Note: According to the latest figures from the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), PET recycling rates in the U.S. are close to 30%.

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