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The PET Resin Association (PETRA) has unveiled a new assessment model that includes testing and evaluation criteria for the recyclability of newly developed PET resins used in manufacturing PET bottles and containers.

Heather Caliendo

October 16, 2012

3 Min Read
PETRA introduces new model for assessing the recyclability of PET resins

The elective model, which also includes a means for assessing the recyclability of new resins having a relatively low market presence, was designed to combine the most progressive elements of existing European and North American recyclability initiatives without sacrificing rigorous testing benchmarks or compromising innovation, according to PETRA.

In North America, the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) has developed its long-standing PET Bottle Critical Guidance document. Current recyclability guidelines in the U.S. restrict resin testing to concentrations of 25% or 50% to minimize processing challenges to the broadest possible range of recyclers. 

PETRA said that type of approach creates artificially restrictive barriers that can preclude the introduction of resin improvements and make product differentiation difficult.

The voluntary PETRA model allows for testing innovations levels of 2% and 10%, which encompass the vast majority of today's new PET resin variants, PETRA stated.  It also includes criteria for testing at the more robust levels of 25% and 50%. 

"We felt there was a need to increase both innovation and recyclability testing by focusing on real-market resin performance and conditions," Ralph Vasami, executive director of PETRA, told PlasticsToday. "The PETRA model is both a stand-alone model and a complement to the APR guidelines, since it includes a testing protocol at lower concentration as well as the higher concentrations in the APR protocol."

The PETRA model includes four parts:

  • A test protocol to measure recyclability in terms of a resin's physical and chemical performance characteristics.

  • A dispersion assessment (based on the test protocol results) that calculates the volume of a resin type that can safely be placed in the marketplace without compromising the overall recyclability of PET.

  • The provision of control resins that reflect the current North American supply of watergrade and CSD-grade PET resins (for use with the test protocol).

  • Annual test monitoring of the combined virgin PET stream to identify and quantify any changes in the virgin resin stream that might adversely impact the recyclability of PET. This provision goes into effect once the model is in prevalent use.

PETRA will provide industry-representative control resins to testers using the model, and fund annual third-party testing and monitoring of the PET resin stream once the model is widely used.

Over the past decade, dramatic advances in PET resin science have led to major technical innovations and the widespread adoption of PET as a packaging material for protecting the integrity of foods and beverages, PETRA stated.

The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) and APR recently reported that in 2011, the U.S. had a recycling rate of 29.3% for PET plastic containers. The total volume of postconsumer PET bottles collected was the highest measured to date at 1,604 million pounds; the total amount of RPET produced by U.S. reclaimers was also at an all-time high of 667 million pounds. 

PETRA believes that improved PET collection rates, advanced recycling technologies, and the growing demand for the sustainable re-use and recycling of raw materials have underscored the importance of fostering a PET recycling system that can incorporate innovation while ensuring the safety and quality of recycled PET.

"We believe the PETRA model will increase both innovation and recyclability testing by focusing on real-market resin performance and the evaluation needs of producers, brand owners and recyclers," Vasami said. "Confirming the viability of promising resin variants is vital to advancing PET resin science and the use of recycled material."

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