ORLANDO (ICIS)--Sustainability will continue to be a trend driving the plastic packaging industry, with recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) at the forefront of the circular economy effort, delegates said at this year’s National Plastics Exposition (NPE).
Delegates in different sectors, from machinery makers to industry analysts, noted a focus on R-PET and circular economy.
One exhibitor in the renewable sector of the show said most attendees stopping by their booth inquired about R-PET.
“It seems to have the highest demand,” he said, compared with other plastics.
The industry has “picked the low-hanging fruit” of using more recyclable materials, reducing packaging material and becoming more energy efficient, Ron Puvak, managing director of the Contract Packaging Association (CPA), told NPE delegates.
Now, brand owners are making sustainability part of their identities and zeroing in on more complex issues of creating bio-based materials that can compete on cost with traditional petrochemicals.
“Sustainability continues to be something we’ll drive,” Puvak said, adding “if they can make money at it, they’re going to do it.”
Plastic needs to be viewed as a resource if global PET bottle consumption continues to grow, Italy-based SIPA general manager Enrico Gribaudo told NPE delegates.
Each year, 32% of plastic consumed ends up in the ecosystem, creating marine litter that harms wildlife and human health.
Gribaudo highlighted his company’s joint effort with Austria-based recycling technology firm EREMA to use the companies’ existing technologies to create an integrated system that makes preforms from 100% recycled PET.
The technology differs from traditional systems in that it processes the raw material bales directly into clean washed flake, eliminating pelletising and associated emissions.
Traditional recycling systems reduce emissions by 63% whereas the SIPA/EREMA technology reduces them by 83%, SIPA general manager Enrico Gribaudo told delegates at NPE.
“It’s not a problem of technology. It’s a problem of society,” he said, pointing to the need for better recycling to yield uncontaminated collection streams.
The EU has set out to make all plastic packaging recyclable by 2030 in an effort to reduce single-use packages.
In the US, the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Plastics Division has established three goals for the recycling and recovering of all plastic packaging in the US by 2040.
The US R-PET market has an opportunity for growth amid a tight market for virgin PET resin through the remainder of 2018 and 2019.
Focus article by Amanda Hays