Plastics Recycling Update

Group warns of colorful PET takeover in Europe

A leading European trade group has warned that an influx of colored PET packaging is endangering the rPET market.

In a press release sent out May 27, Brussels-based Plastic Recyclers Europe says producers of milk, personal-care and home products are increasingly turning toward PET and, as a result, sending upwards of 330,000 tons of colorful and hard-to-sort material into the recycling stream.

“These ‘colourful’ future trends will weaken the image of PET as a recycled product,” the group writes. “Additionally, it will create great difficulties for the PET recycling industry, which already has other market barriers to overcome.”

Traditionally, milk, personal care and home products have relied on HDPE for packaging. While markets exist for recycled and colored HDPE, the sudden switch to PET, Plastic Recyclers Europe says, is being driven by “cost, marketing and sustainability reasons.”

According to the group, colored PET will require additional sortation that will take more time to complete. To make it marketable, colored flake will also need to be tinted gray or black, “but no market currently exists for such a material in high quantities,” the group says.

As a possible solution, the industry is proposing the use of full-wrap sleeves on clear PET containers. However, the group notes, sleeves have been known to be very difficult to remove in the recycling process.

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