Demand for PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles and recycled PET (rPET) continues to exceed supply. With the recent additional rPET production capacities and announcements of future expansion by numerous companies, the demand is likely to remain higher than supply.
Turner Plunkett, President of the Board of Directors at Clear Path Recycling LLC, Fayetteville, N.C., says, “The demand for bottles to recycle and RPET continues to grow in the market as more manufacturers and products continue to look for opportunities to create and promote sustainability and a green story regarding their product offerings.”
Dave Cornell, technical director of the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR), Arlington, Va. says, “Demand is always greater than supply.” According to him, government mandates, brands and economics drive demand for rPET.
As the market share for PET containers continues to rise, the recovery rate for this material remains fairly steady. “The collection rate for bottles has been somewhat lackluster for the last 10-odd years,” says Steve Navedo, vice president of sales and quality assurance for East Farmingdale, N.Y.-based Pure Tech Plastics LLC. He says that to fulfil the available PET recycling capacity in the U.S., the bottle recycling rate would need to be in the neighbourhood of 40-50%. In his estimation, the industry has a capacity utilization rate of from 65-70% currently, and at least 30% of the capacity is not being used.
The nature of the plastic container stream has changed dramatically in the last few years with the growth of thermoform containers, which are formed from PET sheets. He approximates that thermoform accounts for one-third of the PET packaging, while bottles and jars account for two-thirds. Steve Navedo remarks that in an effort to get additional material for recycling, the industry has had to look to other areas such as thermoforms. “We cannot afford to ignore that potential stream.”
Carlos Gutierrez, president and CEO of New United Resource Recovery Corp. (NURRC), Spartanburg, S.C. remarked about the quality aspect and said that bale quality can tend to deteriorate when supply tightens. “Suppliers here are not obliged to improve their quality.”
Although demand is high, with nearly half of the PET bottles recovered for recycling being exported to China for processing, quality and supply issues are likely to remain a problem for the foreseeable future. More updates on PET recycling collection, issues and challenges will be shared at 10th LAPET (Latin America PET Markets) on 24-25 October 2012. Register here to attend the conference in Mexico City. Or contact Ms. Hafizah at firstname.lastname@example.org for further queries.