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US PET recycling tops previous record

United States – The volume of post-consumer PET bottles collected in the USA in 2012 was ‘€˜the highest reported figure to date’€™ at 781 000 tonnes, the US National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) has reported. Figures of 422 730 tonnes of RPET produced by reclaimers and 591 000 tonnes of this material used by the end-use domestic markets were also records.

A total of 2.5 million tonnes of PET made its way to US retailers in 2012, thanks to a 30.8% recycling rate. NAPCOR said this was the first time PET bottle recycling had topped 30%. The recycling rate was 29.3% in 2011.

Another positive trend noted in NAPCOR’s new report was that many fewer bottles are being exported to foreign markets. ‘Export volumes have been going down since a 2008 peak. The 2012 data reflects the lowest volume sold to export markets since 2005, and at 34%, the lowest percentage since 2001 relative to the total volume of PET collected,’ the association stated.

Despite these positive developments, it added that ongoing industry challenges must be acknowledged. ‘While volumes were up in 2012, supply of recycled PET did not keep pace with demand,’ NAPCOR explained. Alhough US reclamation infrastructure has seen ‘significant investment’ in recent years, it remains underutilised with an estimated capacity of roughly 900 000 tonnes in 2012. ‘Domestic PET reclamation plants collectively are operating at only an estimated 63% of capacity,’ the association pointed out.

It commented that packaging innovations that are incompatible with PET recycling, such as full-wrap shrink labels, were depressing yield. However, the overall increase in the PET recycling rate was ‘clear evidence of continued strong, domestic end-market demand for recycled PET’, commented NAPCOR chairman Tom Busard.

‘We believe there is considerable scope for US industry to readily absorb more recycled PET material if available. This strong demand continues to drive domestic investment, and it fuels jobs and related economic growth,’ he contended.

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