The overall recycling rate for PET containers rose incrementally in 2012 while domestic demand for recycled PET (rPET) continued to trump supply. Those are the takeaways from the “Report on Postconsumer Recycling Activity in 2012,” released today by the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) and The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR).

Representing modest year-over-year gains, overall PET recycling rose 1.5 percentage points — from 29.3 percent in 2011 to 30.8 percent in 2012. A total of 1.72 billion pounds of post-consumer PET containers were collected for recycling. That’s an increase of 7.5 percent over 2011’s 1.6 billion pound collection total.

An estimated 5.59 billion pounds of PET bottles were sold in 2012, with PET packaging lightweighting and receding carbonated soft drink sales continuing to hurt the sector.

Of the 1.72 billion pounds of PET bottles collected in 2012, 628 million pounds, or 34 percent, were shipped overseas. Representing the lowest rate since 2005, with a downward trend in exports and increased domestic demand for rPET. Despite the rise in demand and continued investment in U.S. reclamation infrastructure, the plant capacity utilization rate for U.S. reclaimers dropped from 67 percent in 2011 to 63 percent in 2012.

NAPCOR and APR chairman Tom Busard addressed the issue in a press release, stressing the importance of the emerging domestic market as a major area of focus for PET recycling. “We believe there’s considerable scope for U.S. industry to readily absorb more recycled PET material if available. This strong demand continues to drive domestic investment,” Busard stated.

The 2012 edition is the 18th report on PET recycling in the U.S. released by NAPCOR and the eighth released in partnership with APR. In addition to overall PET recycling figures, the research addresses data including declining bale yields and challenges in recycling of full-wrap shrink labels. The full report can be found on the NAPCOR and APR websites.