PET perfectly placed to show what circularity really looks like – consultant

Caroline Murray


VIENNA (ICIS)–The polyethylene terephthalate (PET) value chain is on the road to circularity, but there are obstacles in its way, Ben Dixon, partner at SystemiQ said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the ICIS PET Value Chain conference, Dixon said, “We are in a unique decade of disruption for plastics and the PET value chain has a moment of jeopardy and opportunity”.

PET is well suited for mechanical and chemical recycling as well as reuse. There are also highly motivated brands in the supply chain, as well as strong demand for recycled PET (R-PET).

However, though we think of PET as an example of a circular system, still three-quarters goes to landfill or incineration, Dixon said.

The key point is that there is a structurally high price point for R-PET because of growing demand for the material across the whole system, which is pulling on a concentrated supply of PET bottles. Dixon believes that in the medium-to-long term, there is a risk of substitution away from this material because of this.

“The vast majority of PET applications could be suitable for chemical recycling,” Dixon said.

An all-in circular system for PET will require convergence in the industry.

“It doesn’t require moon shots. There is nothing new needed in order to bring the system to life. It’s really falling into place already. It’s a great moment for investors to see this as a real-life system change and not just a good idea,” Dixon said.

PET resins can be broadly classified into bottle, fibre or film grade, named according to the downstream applications. Bottle grade resin is the most commonly traded form of PET resin and it is used in bottle and container packaging through blow moulding and thermoforming.

Fibre-grade resin goes into making polyester fibre, while film-grade resin is used in electrical and flexible packaging applications. PET can be compounded with glass fibre for the production of engineering plastics.

Thumbnail picture: Modernised waste sorting plant in Gdansk, Poland
(Source: Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/Shutterstock)


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