European PET collection rate nears 50 per cent, while Far East exports fall

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cent, Recycling, Mass

PET bottle collection in Europe rose by more than eight per cent to1.363m tonnes last year while exports to the Far East plummeted, said the regional trade body.

PET Containers Recycling Europe (Petcore) said the overall collection rate for all PET bottles on the market rose to 48 per cent - a year-on-year increase of 2.5 per cent. The PET sheet market tonnage resumed its growth pattern from 22 per cent to 27 per cent, after an unexpected fall in 2008. Blowmoulding continued to grow in 2009 with more than 22 per cent, while bottles rose to 20 per cent – or some 200 KT.

However the 2009 share of fibres as an end use for recycled PET flake decreased from 45 per cent to 40 per cent, Petcore secretary general Sue Ward told FoodProductionDaily.com. But she added that the tonnage had remained almost constant – at 366 KT compared to 363 KT in 2008.

Far East exports down

The Petcore figures also found that while overall exports of PET baled bottles rose from 211 KT in 2008 to 223 KT last year, shipments to the Far East in the same period dropped by 16 per cent. Increased demand for rPET from within Europe also meant that some 67,000 tonnes of baled imports had to be shipped into Europe, giving a net export figure of 156 KT, said Ward.

This finding contradicts a recent statement from the European Plastics Recyclers (EuPR) association which last month told warned that a jump in plastic shipments from the region into Asia, and particularly China, was a major factor in the severe tightening of the supply of PET bottles for recycling.

The EuPR said the situation was becoming critical for some recycling operations and cautioned that unless there was an improvement in the security of supply, Europe faced losing “experience and trained recyclers”.

“In 2009, year-on-year plastics exports to the Far East from the European Union rose by 47 per cent to 3.3 k/t, compared to 2.2 k/t in 2008 – and PET has followed that trend,”​ Antonio Furfari, of the EuPR, told FoodProductionDaily.com. “If exports continue at current levels we may not have enough supply of food grade rPET in Europe. Converters and suppliers could see supply gaps of rPET for their packaging.”

Lightweighting

Petcore estimates that present the annual European rPET recycling capacity is 1.6m tonnes. Given that PET production in the region currently stands at around 3m tonnes per annum, achieving full capacity recycling would push reclamation rates beyond 50 per cent, said Ward.

The organisation also highlighted the effect of lightweighting and inclusion of caps in collected bales on the amount of PET that is actually re-usuable.

“Of the collected bales that are reprocessed in Europe, only 75 per cent is usable PET,”​ said a Petcore statement. “The remainder consists of caps, labels, residues, contamination such as foreign materials and other polymers. The continuing programme of bottle weight reduction means that caps and labels form a greater proportion by weight of the collected PET package.”

“For the collection of PET bottles in Europe to increase by more than 8% in such difficult economic circumstances is a real achievement,” ​said Petcore chairman Roberto Bertaggia. “Recycled PET is a reliable and sought-after feedstock in the PET value chain and sustainable uses are being developed to utilise the growing supply of recycled PET. Whether PET bottles are recycled into one of the new applications, into another bottle, fibre, sheet or strapping tape the energy saving will be the same.”

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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