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0501 PET container recycling - strong as ever
A total of 270.000 tonnes of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) was collected in Europe for recycling by the industry in the year 2000. This represents an increase of 23% over the results of 1999 when a total of 219.000 tonnes was collected. According to figures published by PET Container Recycling Europe (Petcore) last year's 23% increase in European collection volume was in line with the previous year's 25% growth. A significant contribution to this growth was made in France, where collection volume went up from 39.500 to over 60.000 tonnes.
According to Petcore Chairman, Floyd Flexon, collection growth looks set to continue: "In the coming five years, we expect that European collection will increase by an average of 20% per annum. In addition it is likely that we will see extra growth coming from the United Kingdom and Spain since their collection programmes are in their infancy." Mr. Flexon adds: "Although the collection figures are very encouraging indeed, the PET recycling industry has not had an easy year. Coming out of a difficult two years trough in 1998 and 1999, the industry has gone through a massive shake-up. And we are not out of the woods yet: in the past year, recycling capacity has increased strongly but by far the bigger issue is the collection systems to achieve good quality sorted PET bottles. In addition we experienced a further shortage of collected bottles, due to exports to the Far East."
"However, we do see these as positive challenges to the industry - and at present we can also signal improved economics for recyclers thanks to the higher prices for virgin PET to which prices for recycled PET (R-PET) are directly linked."
Putting things in an historic perspective, Floyd Flexon said: "Six years ago, the PET industry set itself a number of stretch targets for the recycling of PET containers. At that time it was predicted that by the year 2000, a total of 100.000 tonnes of R-PET would be collected and used. Many in the industry were sceptical about setting such high targets. As it turns out, across Europe, a record number of PET bottles was recovered for reprocessing during 2000. For 2001, it is expected that Europe will break through the 300.000 tonnes barrier - clear evidence that R-PET has many valid and commercially viable opportunities in today's marketplace."
He added: "Recycling of PET containers makes absolute business sense. After use and post-consumer recovery, most recycled PET bottles are cleaned (washed), flaked and either used directly or blended with virgin polymer, before being processed in a similar way to virgin polymer. The quality of recycled PET (R-PET) that can be achieved is very high, so it can be used for a number of applications such as fibres for carpets and clothing or for automotive applications and even for going back into new bottles. A unique feature of R-PET is that during the recycling process, it is possible to increase the performance of the R-PET to levels higher than those of the original virgin material. During a so-called solid stating process, the molecular weight of R-PET can be increased to a higher value than the original one that can be used for specific applications like strapping."
There are many developing markets for recovered PET. Through participation in the recycling efforts of many European countries, Petcore has compiled intensive sources of information to assist communities in establishing successful recycling programmes. In addition, Petcore can assist communities with pertinent information about the processing, reclamation and remanufacture of post-consumer PET plastic containers. Because of its clear advantages, the use of PET is increasing. In 1999, over 5 million tonnes of PET were processed world-wide - and the trend is growing. PET is not just an excellent material for the production of bottles. Its characteristics allow its use to be extended beyond its initial application. In fact, PET retains so much of its inherent qualities that recycling the material is not only viable, but highly desirable.
It is Petcore's commitment to assist and promote the sustainable recovery and recycling of PET packaging. Petcore - PET Container Recycling Europe - is a non-profit association, whose key objective is to facilitate the economical recovery of plastic containers (with emphasis on PET bottles) through collection, reclamation and development of end uses for post-consumer bottles throughout Europe.
Petcore (PET containers recycling Europe) is a non-profit European trade association based in Brussels. Its mission focuses on the development of PET packaging, with a particular emphasis on PET recycling.