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PET recycling yield slowly but steadily decreasing in Europe

Spain – The average yield of the polyethylene recyclers in Europe has decreased from 73% to 68% since 2011, it was announced at the annual meeting of Plastics Recyclers Europe in Barcelona.

At present, recyclers are obliged to discard more material in order to achieve high quality recycled polyethylene (PET), delegates were told in Spain.

The ‘constant’ yield decrease of PET bales processed by recyclers is attributed to several factors, such as bottles getting thinner, leading to flakes being more easily discarded early on in the recycling process. ‘This trend is reaching its limits of circularity even though minimisation of resources use is one of the prerogatives of circular economy,’ it was argued.

Also, the market for PET products has grown far beyond the conventional bottle and as a result this waste stream is getting more complex. The market for non-bottle is estimated to cover 18% and will only grow in the upcoming years. Another issue is that the collection systems have not yet been adapted to the continuously changing PET waste stream.

It was pointed out that products such as opaque PET bottles and PET trays are mostly present in the coloured PET bales. For instance; these two types of plastic represent 20% of the content of the coloured PET bales in France.

‘Extended producer responsibility schemes must urgently upgrade their sorting requirements to safeguard the proven quality of recycled PET from bottle stream,’ according to Casper van den Dungen, vice president of Plastics Recyclers Europe. He hopes that this will help develop ‘new dedicated waste streams’ for both opaque PET bottles and PET trays.

Next year’s annual meeting will take place in Cascais, Portugal, on 11 and 12 October.

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