Recycling of PET plastic now growing slowly but steadily

A report from the National Association for PET Container Resources presents what GallonDaily considers good news regarding recycling of PET bottles in the US and North America. Recycling rates are growing steadily, though there is still some distance to go for PET to achieve general targets that are expected in recycling of other materials. PET is the clear flexible plastic used for a great deal of packaging, especially beverage bottles. It is actually the same material as polyester, used for clothing and many other applications, but in a different form.

According to NAPCOR data, the 2011 gross recycling rate for PET bottles is 29.3%, up from 19.9% ten years ago. There are 23 US PET recycling plants in operation with a combined capacity of 1.755 billion pounds, significantly more than the 1.052 billion pounds of PET currently being recycled. Prices for bales of PET bottles varied during the year from a low of 25 cents a pound in December to a high of 40 cents a pound in the spring months.

The big jump in use of recycled PET in 2011 came from Canadian manufacturers and for bottles made in the US but sold into Canada. Use of recycled PET for fibre applications also showed strong growth.

Lightweighting of bottles is something of a challenge for the PET recycling industry with collectors, intermediate processors, and reclaimers having to handle more containers to obtain the same weight. This increases recycling costs and creates logistical issues in handling the lighter containers throughout the system. NAPCOR expresses confidence that the challenges of recycling lighter weight bottles will be overcome. Labels that are not compatible with recycling systems are another big challenge for recyclers.

The 2011 Report on Postconsumer PET Container Recycling Activity is available at http://www.napcor.com/pdf/NAPCOR_2011RateReport.pdf

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