PET recycling rates increase across EU

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cent, Polyethylene terephthalate, Recycling

European post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) collection
recycling rates reached 796,000 tonnes in 2005, a 15.1 per cent
increase over the previous year, according to a trade association.

The increase is a positive sign for the food and drink bottling and packaging industry. EU environmental legislation requires increasing amounts of packaging to be recycled. If target rates are not achieved, member countries will have to impose more stringent requirements on industry and consumers.

More and more food and drink products are being packaging in plastic, and especially PET, due to its lighter weight and convenience in comparison to glass.

The increase in PET collection continues, by far, to exceed growth in consumption, reported Petcore, a non-profit European trade association based in Brussels. Petcore was formed to promote the development of PET packaging, with a particular emphasis on PET recycling.

The largest boost came from Germany where collection shot up 32 per cent to reach over 200,000 tonnes. Significant growth also occured in other countries, especially in Poland and France.

"We were expecting the increase in Germany, but were particularly impressed to see growth continue in countries like France, seen by many as mature collection states,"​ said Frank Koelewijn, Petcore's director general.

Collection has also increased in the UK and Ireland, but mostly in the form of mixed plastic waste, which is not included in Petcore's statistics.

Exports of PET bottles to be recycled to the Far East was slightly down, from 18.8 per cent in 2004 to 17.6 per cent or 140,000 tonnes in 2005.

Over 100,000 tonnes of exported bottles came from German retailers, despite ample recycling capacity available both in Germany and its surrounding countries, Petcore stated.

"There are two reasons why we are concerned about those developments,"​ Koelewijn continued. "First, it is very hard to explain to German consumers why the bottles they bring back to the shops need to be shipped to the other side of the world to be recovered, as they can actually be recycled closer to home. Second, China will close its doors one day."

About 57 per cent of the collected PET containers were recycled into polyester fibre products, down from 65 per cent in 2004 and 70 per cent in 2003.

In contrast, the market for polyester sheet has rapidly gained a market share of 16.2 per cent in a range of thermoformed applications where the use of recycled PET tripled over the past two years, Petcore stated.

Re-use back into PET bottles was 15.2 per cent. Other outlets for recycled PET, such as use for strapping remained relatively flat.

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