Recycled plastic will be one of the major players in the coming years. So much so that, for example, the European Union (EU), within the framework of its Circular Economy Strategy, has set as its main objective to ensure that by the year 2030 all packaging on the market will be recycled. All this is forcing a rethinking and redesign of the working models of a wide range of industries that use plastic as a fundamental element. In the case of PET, sectors such as the food, cosmetics and automotive industries are relying more and more on this material thanks to its many advantages, such as its strength, flexibility and lightness.
In fact, rPET is the only plastic material that currently has authorized post-consumer recycling processes for packaging a wide variety of products, thus guaranteeing consumer health. In this sense, it is worth mentioning the example of companies such as REPETCO, which has been able to develop its own patented system, respectful with nature, through PET/PE multilayer food packaging of post-consumer origin. Through a unique process, rPET pellets and rPET are generated that can be used again in the food industry with multilayer PET/PE trays and sheet packaging; in bottles for soft drinks or detergents; and in fibers for the textile and automotive industries.
PET is the only plastic material that has authorized post-consumer recycling processes for packaging
Meeting a growing demand
Paradoxically, the main challenge PET containers will face is to be able to guarantee sufficient supply to industries to meet a booming demand without affecting their current competitive price, as companies are increasingly committed to offering consumers sustainable packaging solutions that are aligned with new sustainability regulations. For example, the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) has approved cleaning processes so that r-PET packaging can once again be suitable for contact with food and other products for human consumption.
Ensuring sufficient supply and improving collection systems will be key objectives for rPET
The report ‘rPET: The best solution to ensure the circularity of packaging‘, prepared by the Innovation and Development Center for the Circular Economy (CIDEC), stresses that “there is a mismatch between supply and demand for rPET” that must evolve so that “can be translated into opportunities to improve the efficiency of collection and recycling processes, undertaking new investments and modernizing the competitive capacity of the rPET industry in Spain”. The document also defends the urgency of promoting a secondary market for rPET in the country, “both for its lower environmental impacts and for the opportunity to create jobs linked to recycling processes and the investments needed to renew the country’s industrial capacity”.
In addition, it points out some challenges that will be key to guarantee the supply of rPET in the future. Among them, it indicates promoting mechanisms to improve the waste collection and sorting process to avoid contamination of the collected material. It is also committed to seeking ways of public-private collaboration to support investments aimed at improving the infrastructure and technological equipment of recyclers. The report invites to give a boost to the secondary markets of plastic raw materials through fiscal incentives such as the application of a reduced rate of value added tax (VAT) to products that incorporate a greater amount of recycled plastic.
From a regulatory point of view, a European Plastics Strategy is likely to be designed in the coming years to redefine the recycling mechanisms and serve as a catalyst to foster greater collaboration between the different actors involved in this industry.
Other articles of interest: Boosting the secondary market for recycled plastic: why Spain needs to double its production