Volker Kronseder, chairman of the VDMA Food Processing and Packaging Association says that the amount of PET bottles in the world’s oceans is a ‘damning indictment’ of civilization.
Speaking at a press conference at Drinktec 2013 in Munich last week, Kronseder (who is also Drinktec president and CEO of Krones) discussed the rise of increasingly lightweight PET bottles since the 1990s, and its use on blow molding, filling, packaging and recycling machines.
But despite gaining a 40% share in beverage packaging worldwide, Kronseder noted problems with quantities of PET collected, where recycling reduces mineral oil dependency and price fluctuations.
Only 48% of PET bottles are recycled globally versus 70% of cans, Kronseder said, citing PCI Pet Packaging Resin and Recycling figures.
“The laziest collectors are north, central and South America with rates of around 30-36%, whereas Asia-Pacific already recycles around 72%,” Kronseder said.
Empty bottles ‘material, not waste’
While Germany recycles 80% of PET bottles, Europe as a whole (including CIS) only recycles 38%, Kronseder, in his capacity as chair of the VDMA’s food processing and packaging arm, noted.
“In addition, only 11% of the volume collected is used for bottle-to-bottle recycling so far,” Kronseder said, with the polyester fiber industry (principally in India and China) using almost 75%.
Recycling is a task that should concern society as a whole, Kronseder said, since the enormous amounts of plastic in the world’s oceans are a “damning indictment of civilization”.
“All consumers must come to realize that an empty bottle is raw material and not waste. Or ‘landfill’ to use the elegant American phrase,” he said.
“Politicians in all countries must create the respective general conditions and initiate the right developments.”
German export strength
Noting strong 12% growth for German beverage processing and packaging machines in 2012, to €2.2bn ($2.97bn) Kronseder explained, where the nation holds an estimated 40% share of the beverage packaging machinery market alone, far ahead of closest rival Italy.
But he added that the addition of figures for stretch blow-molding machinery for in-demand plastic containers and components took estimated sales for the year to €5bn.
Given sluggish growth in drinks consumption in the US and Europe, Kronseder said German suppliers are eyeing lucrative export markets with high single-digit growth rates, such as China and Africa.
They are meeting the desire for cost-effective products, due to the rise of discount retailers and limited consumer spending power.
But conversely, there is growing demand for pricier products using “sales promoting” bottle designs, and a desire from some customers for a more differentiated range and higher beverage quality.