The Recycling Partnership’s first round of grants is intended to help PET recyclers boost their recovery in the short term and build capacity for the long term. | DonPablo/Shutterstock

Resin company DAK Americas, recycled-content thermoforms producer Direct Pack and MRF operator Recycle Source have become the first three recipients of grants from the PET Recycling Coalition.

The Recycling Partnership’s PET Recycling Coalition launched a year ago to provide funding to boost PET recycling in the U.S. Modeled off the group’s Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, the PET counterpart is also funded by a mix of plastic producers and brand owners. 

According to a press release from The Recycling Partnership (TRP), the first round of three grants will boost PET packaging capture and processing capacity, and they will unlock access to PET thermoform recycling for the Pittsburgh area. 

Global plastics producer DAK Americas received funding to help install a robotic sorting system at its PET recycling plant in Richmond, Ind. DAK acquired that facility, formerly known as Perpetual Recycling Solutions, in February 2019. Since then, the company has invested tens of millions of dollars in upgrades at the plant. 

According to TRP, the robot will be installed on one of the facility’s outbound lines, capturing PET bottles, thermoforms and pigmented opaque PET items missed by earlier sorting steps. 

Another grant went to Direct Pack Recycling, which is part of Asuza, Calif.-based packaging producer Direct Pack, which is building a PET recycling operation in Mexicali, Mexico, just across the border from California. The company already invested $25 million in a Mexicali plant that produces recycled-content thermoforms.

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In late 2021, Direct Pack announced another project to build a PET recycling plant adjacent to the thermoforming facility. TRP’s grant will assist in the construction of the recycling plant, which will source materials from MRFs across the U.S. In fact, the city of Phoenix on Jan. 27 noted in a press release that Direct Pack purchased 8.1 million pounds of PET scrap from Phoenix in 2022.

“With our newest recycling and recovery facility located only a few hours away from Phoenix, we can trace and recover all PET plastic collected in the area with a very low carbon footprint,” Craig Snedden, president of Direct Pack, Inc., stated in the press release, which focused on recovery efforts at the upcoming Super Bowl 57 in nearby Glendale, Ariz.

Direct Pack is one of the few larger-scale reclaimers that specialize in recycling thermoformed PET packaging.

Lastly, the PET Recycling Coalition awarded a grant to Recycle Source, which will upgrade the  automated sorting technology at its Pittsburgh MRF. The release notes the upgrades will allow the facility to effectively sort PET thermoforms for recycling.

“These projects will deliver the types of improvements that we view as being essential to the future of PET recycling,” said Adam Gendell, director of system optimization at TRP, in a press release. “By helping MRFs and PET reclaimers capture and recover more of the material in their facilities, we will see meaningful gains in the amount of PET recycled in the short term, and by helping to grow reclamation capacity, we will ensure that there is robust infrastructure ready to handle future growth in PET recycling.”

The dollar amounts of the grants were not disclosed, but Heath Nettles, director of marketing and communications for TRP, said the grants averaged $250,000. The individual amounts were based on the PET Recycling Coalition’s assessment of the individual facilities’ needs and the value of the projects relative to the coalition’s goals for the system, he said.

The following PET Recycling Coalition Steering Committee members provide financial support for the coalition: Eastman, Indorama Ventures, the National Association of PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), Procter & Gamble and the Walmart Foundation. Additional members include The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, Plastic Ingenuity and Niagara Bottling.

The PET Recycling Coalition expects to announce three additional rounds of grants in 2023.

A version of this story appeared in Resource Recycling on Jan. 30.

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