Patented in 1941, an estimated 150 billion plastic bot- tles made of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) resin will be used worldwide this year. The infrastructure for PET recycling is well established with demand for good quality recycled PET (rPET) far exceeding supply. PET bottles, in particular, have a higher recycling rate than other post-consumer PET products. However, the ratio of the number of PET bottles recycled compared to the generation of new bottles has been in decline.
The reason for these market conditions is threefold: growth of single-serve PET containers, growth of use of rPET outside of beverage bottle markets, and plentiful supply of virgin resins that (starting in 1996) drove prices too low for rPET to compete. The type of demand has also affected rPET value. Demand has been strong for fibre and coatings but these markets typically pay several cents per pound less than applications for recycled bottles, sheet or engineered plastics.
rPET is easily re-built, with the properties of the virgin polymer recovered during the recycling process. To use rPET in food packaging, however, decontamination is required. Historically, this has been a difficult endeavor but recently a number of companies with patented recycling processes have received “Non-Objection” letters from the U.S. and Canadian government agencies for use of rPET in food and beverage containers.
To further bolster the rPET market, Coca-Cola publicly announced plans to use 10 per cent recycled content in every PET bottle by 2005. Pepsi-Cola has made a similar commitment. With these and other new plastic recycling initiatives already underway, bottle-to-bottle recycling technology for rPET as well as use of rPET in a wide range of food contact applications are poised to take flight.
For more information, contact Damian Bassett at 416-594-3456, extension 229 or visit www.csr.org (the CSR Sheet is located under “Publications”).