Increasing the amount and quality of post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate available will be vital if the plastics industry is to reach new recycling targets, according to speakers at the Petcore conference in Brussels Thursday.
Clarissa Morawski, the managing director of the Reloop Platform that supports moving towards a circular economy, said that companies will need increased access to post-consumer PET if they are to meet their recycled content goals.
However, Morawski added that there is not currently enough post-consumer PET available.
On January 16, alongside the European Commission, six plastics industry organizations, including Petcore Europe and Plastics Recyclers Europe, committed to launch new platforms with the aim of recycling 50% of plastics waste by 2040.
Packaging accounted for 59% of plastic waste in the EU in 2015, although packaging only accounted for 40% of the EU’s plastic demand in the same year, according to Eric Liegeois, team leader for plastics and wastes recycling at the European Commission.
As a result, packaging is a key area of interest for both the European Commission and other bodies active in working towards the introduction of a more circular economy.
“I have seen more activity in the last year than I have seen in 20 years,” Morawski said.
But she also added a note of caution, saying: “I’ve seen recycled pledges going back 10 to 15 years that haven’t been met.” Francois Lagrue, speaking for Wellman France Recyclage, stated: “Recycling only 100% of PET bottles won’t be enough and the industry has to find new type of packaging to recycle.” Meanwhile, Antonino Furfari, managing director of Plastics Recyclers Europe, said: “In order to be recycled a package has to be technically, logistically and economically viable.”
These concerns have led to European PET recycling industry to look into developing the collection and recycling of PET thermoforms as a means of increasing the percentage of post-consumer PET that is recycled and as another form of PET recycling, rather than the traditional bottle-to-bottle recycling approach that is the norm.
PET thermoforms are used in rigid packaging for fresh foods.
According to Lagrue, all recycling lines in Europe today are design for bottle recycling.
However, 4PET Recycling is erecting a new thermoform recycling line in the Netherlands, which is expected to be operational from mid-2018.
Recycling PET thermoforms generates new issues for recyclers, as any mixing of mono-layer and multi-layer thermoforms can lead to the discoloration of any end product.
“Recycling PET thermoforms must not jeopardize the value chain that had been built around PET bottle recycling,” said Lagrue.
Nevertheless, innovations such as the development of thermoform recycling are necessary as the industry moves towards a circular economy.
Industry participants speaking at the Petcore conference underlined that both in terms of commitments linked to future recycling targets and in terms of concrete action the PET industry is moving forward.
–Luke Milner, firstname.lastname@example.org
–Edited by James Leech, email@example.com
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