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NAPCOR 2020 PET recycling report shows growth in bottle-to-bottle recycling

The amount of recycled PET for end-market use increased by 800 million pounds from 2010 to 2020, according to the report.

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November 2, 2021

The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), Charlotte, North Carolina, has released its “2020 PET Recycling Report,” which marks its 26th edition of the annual report.

According to the report, the amount of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) used by end markets in the U.S. and Canada increased by 10 percent, signaling strong support of postconsumer content in brand packaging.

RPET use by the Food/Beverage and Non-Food/Beverage Bottle categories grew by 32 percent in total, surpassing fiber for the first time as the primary user of postconsumer PET bottles.

Additionally, from 2010 through 2020, rPET consumption in U.S. and Canadian markets has grown from 1 billion pounds to 1.8 billion pounds.

“This continued increase of postconsumer rPET usage in bottles and jars is encouraging and points to a commitment toward a circular economy by brand owners,” says Tom Busard, NAPCOR chairman and chief procurement officer for Plastipak Packaging Inc. of Plymouth, Michigan, and president of Clean Tech, Plastipak’s recycling affiliate.

NAPCOR says its analysis shows the higher market demand outpaced collection, which drove PET reclaimers to rely more heavily on imports after depleting their existing inventories.

In 2020, the collection of PET bottles decreased by approximately 2.3  percent in the United States, which resulted in a 26.6 percent recycling rate for PET bottles. This is a 1.3 percentage point decrease from the 2019 rate of 27.9 percent. NAPCOR says this is not surprising given the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, including the closure of redemption centers and disruption in curbside recycling.

When figures from Mexico and Canada are included, the 2020 North American PET recycling rate for 2020 totaled 33.9 percent, which is a slight decline from the 35 percent rate reported in 2019.

The “2020 PET Recycling Report” also includes a PET thermoform market analysis, revealing that postconsumer collection volumes for the year surpassed 2019 numbers.

Darrel Collier, NAPCOR executive director, says, “PET thermoforms have been a significant and growing end market over the years. By expanding our discussion and analysis of PET thermoforms, we have additional data points illustrating that thermoform-to-thermoform recycling is occurring.”

He adds that while NAPCOR is encouraged by the effort to develop thermoform-to-thermoform recycling, challenges remain.

NAPCOR says it continues to work to address these and other ongoing challenges for the industry, with a particular focus on methods to increase the amount of PET that gets recycled.

To purchase the full 2020 PET Recycling Report, visit www.napcor.com/reports-resources.