UK firm meeting growing demand for rPET packaging

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Recycling

Linpac Packaging has invested £3m in new equipment to enable it to manufacture recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) packaging at its UK facility in West Yorkshire.

The company claims the purchase of the thermoforming and inline extrusion machinery enables it to gain greater control over the rPET it produces and makes it one of the largest producers of rPET packaging in the UK.

Current applications for rPET are mostly in bottles and thermoformed sheet products. The material is formed by washing, melting and then reforming PET granules into sheet or film for thermoforming or bottles.

The retail packaging supplier said that its investment means the UK site can now incorporate waste from its own production processes in the production of packaging, with its new line of trays for fresh meat, fish and poultry storage, Rfresh, using 50 per cent post-consumer waste in combination with virgin PET.

Rfresh, according to the retail sector packaging supplier, was tested successfully on its performance capabilities, meets EU legislative requirements and retains the traditional PET qualities of clarity and thermal stability.

Linpac marketing manager Barbara Laing told that the company previously had to manufacture rPET outside the UK but now can extrude and thermoform on site from flake. However, she would not be drawn on where the rPET flake was being sourced.

Waste reduction

Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a government-backed programme charged with ensuring that the UK meets EU requirements on reducing waste, claims that the use of rPET will not only reduce the amount of packaging that ends up in landfill but will also substantially cut CO2 emissions.

It said that its research also shows that consumers display a preference for recycled content in packaging and thus rPET usage can help to build brand loyalty.

Supply restrictions

However, according to the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA), while a drive for greener packaging is ensuring a rapid demand increase for recycled materials in products, the supply currently remains limited for rPET.

BSDA spokesperson Liz Bastone claims that governments therefore had more to do to ensure the use of recycled packaging remains viable.

"It is essential that recycling rates grow and as part of the BSDA's sustainability strategy, the industry is keen to work with national and local government to further improve kerbside recycling schemes and recycling infrastructure,"​ Bastone stated. "Clear, simple and consistent schemes will encourage consumers to recycle and will improve collection rates."

The BSDA said that the establishment of an industry standard on rPET would help establish and more consistent and open supply of the materials to encourage more environmentally friendly beverage packing.

WRAP agrees that there are limitations in the current supply of rPET. A spokesperson for the programme said that 180,000 tonnes of plastic bottles were currently being exported for recycling, though new plants, set to open in the UK by next year at the latest, would help to boost supply in the country.

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