US must boost recycling rate to raise use of R-PET − executive

11 March 2014 20:00 Source:ICIS News

ORLANDO, Florida (ICIS)--Increased use of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) can reduce the use of greenhouse gasses, but only if the United States’ recycling rates increases above current levels, an executive from one of the world’s largest packaging companies said Tuesday.

“We’ve seen a bit of a flat line of how much recycling goes on in the United States,” said Charlie Schwarze, global sustainability for Amcor Rigid Plastics. “Right now the percentage is at about 34%. I don’t think anyone walks into a room and says ‘yay, 30%!’ I want that number to go up.”

Schwarze was speaking at the 2014 Plastics Recycling conference here.

Amcor, which averages $9.5bn in sales each year, manufactures 50bn-70bn lb (23m-32m tonnes) of post consumer recycled material each year, Schwarze said.

Using more R-PET in packaging can help companies save money and become more efficient by creating what is called a closed-loop system, where material is eventually recycled back to the company and used over and over. That, in turn, cuts back on size of packaging, shipping of consumer goods and helps the environment, Schwarze said.

But, there is an issue, Schwarze said. High quality R-PET material is hard to find the market. Most R-PET material is mixed with other material, which degrades its quality. Schwarze said that high quality R-PET material should be comprised of about 10% virgin polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin.

Schwarze said he expects the post consumer recycling (PCR) material market to remain a spot market over the next several years, until the recycling rates increase. Once the recycling rates increase – putting more material in the system – the market will see more demand and more large companies entering contracts to buy material.

“Unfortunately, PCR is seen as a spot material market, and probably will for a while,” Schwarze said. “There’s not enough customers really ready to buy at a high level [to make it a contract market]."

By Andrew Guy Jr