New packaging guidelines aim for 100 per cent PET recyclability

By Helen Glaberson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Pet bottles Recycling

Leading industry trade associations are encouraging their members to follow a new set of guidelines to ensure that PET bottles are compatible with recycling facilities.

The “Design for Recycling Guidelines”​ is a set of criteria established by the European PET Bottle Platform (EPBP) which aims to improve the quality and economic viability of PET recycling, recommending 100 per cent recyclability of PET.

The European Federation of Bottled Waters (EFBW) and the Union of Non-alcoholic Beverage Association (UNESDA) are actively encouraging their member companies to implement the guidelines, which can be read here​.

“Encouraging producers to meet the design for recycling guidelines is a positive step forward, not only for the future of bottle to bottle recycling, but also in terms of resource efficiency,” ​said UNESDA and EFBW in a joint statement.

Incompatible materials

The associations explained that incompatible materials can adversely affect the PET recycling process.

According to UNESDA and EFBW, components of packaging design on PET bottles such as barriers, additives, full body sleeves and opaque colouring are leading to deterioration in the quality of recycled PET which is negatively impacting bottle-to-bottle recycling.

Over the past few years, PET recyclers processing post-consumer PET bottles for high-end bottle-to-bottle applications have experienced increasing problems with the quality of their end product, a spokesperson for EFBW told

The spokesperson said that the growth in use of certain sleeves, additives and barrier materials in clear PET bottles are difficult to identify in the sorting process. The levels with which these components end up in the bottle-to-bottle recyclate have gone up, according to the spokesperson.

This is an issue because they can result in discolouration and haziness of the bottle's recycled content.

Key recommendations

One of the key recommendations of the new guidelines is that UNESDA and EFBW members review their respective PET bottle specifications, and over the next two years solve issues of non-compatibility.

“Secondly, and at least as important, we call upon other brand owners and holders of private labels to act likewise. UNESDA and EFBW are keen to share their knowledge and experience with all interested parties,”​ said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson said the associations also strongly encourage companies that design and produce innovative materials for application in PET bottles to use the same design for recyclability guidelines and to apply for an objective 3rd party assessment by the EPBP.

“For many of the issues we have identified, in fact solutions are already available. This can either be a slight change of design or using a different type of additive that causes less or no problems when recycled. For the consumer these changes will mostly go unnoticed,”​ said the spokesperson.

The associations hope that their members will reach compliance with the EPBP guidelines by the end of 2012.

The two associations said they will support their members with further guidance.

The project, which has been in the making for a year, is a several step procedure including the distribution of surveys and questionnaires to respective members to identify and evaluate problem areas.

“Our goal is to encourage members to consider the recycling of PET bottles at the very beginning of the planning process when developing new PET bottle designs”​, said Philippe Diercxsens, a leading packaging expert and Vice-Chair of EFBW’s Environment Committee.

According to UNESDA and EFBW, recycled PET (rPET) is a valuable resource, not only as secondary raw material for new bottles, but also for other second life applications.

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