PET Container Recycling Rate Tops 30 Percent in 2012

PET Container Recycling Rate Tops 30 Percent in 2012

Plastics associations say recycled PET production reaches highest level.

October 15, 2013

The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) and the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR) have released their "Report on Postconsumer PET Container Recycling Activity in 2012," which cites a 2012 U.S. recycling rate of 30.8 percent for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic containers.

In a press release announcing the annual figure, NAPCOR and APR report the total volume of postconsumer PET bottles collected was the highest reported to date at 1.718 billion pounds, as were both the total amount of recycled PET (rPET) produced by U.S. reclaimers, 930 million pounds, and the amount used across major end-use domestic market segments at 1.3 billion pounds.

“The increase in the PET recycling rate is clear evidence of continued strong, domestic end-market demand for recycled PET, and we believe there’s considerable scope for the U.S. industry to readily absorb more recycled PET material if available. This strong demand continues to drive domestic investment, and it fuels jobs and related economic growth,” says Tom Busard, chairman of both NAPCOR and APR, as well as chief procurement officer for Plastipak Packaging Inc. and president of Clean Tech, Plastipak’s recycling affiliate. “In 2012, we saw significant increases in recycled PET use in fiber, sheet and film, food and beverage bottles and strapping end-market categories in the United States.”

Another positive trend noted in the report is the increase in domestic reclaiming of PET bottles, with fewer bottles being exported to foreign markets. The report shows that export volumes have been declining since a 2008 peak, with 2012 data reflecting the lowest volume sold to export markets since 2005; and at 34 percent, the lowest percentage since 2001 relative to the total volume of PET collected.

Despite the positive developments, NAPCOR and APR acknowledge industry challenges. While volumes were up in 2012, the supply of recycled PET failed to keep pace with demand. The U.S. reclamation infrastructure has seen significant investment in recent years, with total 2012 capacity estimated at more than 2 billion pounds, but it continues to be underused. Domestic PET reclamation plants collectively are operating at only an estimated 63 percent of capacity.

Continuing a trend noted in the joint report titled "2011 Report of Postconsumer PET Container Recycling Activity,"declining bale yield—the amount of usable PET at the end of the reclaiming process—remained another critical issue for reclaimers, particularly related to baled PET bottles collected at curbside. Packaging innovations not compatible with PET recycling, such as full-wrap shrink labels, also continued to contribute to yield loss.

This is the eighth year that NAPCOR and the APR have partnered to produce this report and the eighteenth year that it’s been issued by NAPCOR in its current format. The full “Report on Postconsumer PET Container Recycling Activity in 2012” can be found on the NAPCOR and APR websites, and