The average yield of the PET recyclers has decreased from 73% to 68% since 2011. This five points decrease has led to substantial and additional cost for the European PET recyclers.
(This average yield is based on various collection systems in Europe.) Additionally, recyclers are obliged to discard more material in order to achieve good quality of recycled PET.
The constant yield decrease of PET bales processed by recyclers is caused by number of factors.Firstly, with technological developments aiming at making packaging lighter, bottles are getting thinner. On the one hand, this has an impact on higher moisture content in bales. On the other hand, thinner flakes have more probability to get discarded during the recycling process. This trend is reaching its limits of circularity even though minimization of resources use is one of the prerogatives of Circular Economy.
Secondly, the market for PET products has grown 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 it is forecasted to grow over the next years.
Lastly, the collection systems did not adapt to the changes of the PET waste stream. As a matter of fact, products such as opaque PET bottles and PET trays are entering mostly the coloured PET bales. Today, these two products represent 20% of the content of the coloured PET bales in France.Even though PET is the most widely recycled plastic, the various stakeholders should work on eco-design of PET products to improve its recyclability, said Casper van den Dungen, PRE Vice-President and Chairman of the PET Working Group, he added: Most importantly, the EPR schemes must urgently upgrade their sorting requirements to safeguard the proven quality of recycled PET from bottle stream and strongly support the developing of new dedicated streams for opaque PET bottles and PET trays.