PETnology Europe 2024_summiteer

Virgin PET vs. rPET

bvse: Precarious situation in PET recycling

Bonn, Germany

Since the logistics chains rearranged themselves after the Corona pandemic in the second half of 2022, virgin material has been very cheap in Europe and are displacing PET recyclates.

"The high inflation is also causing consumers to forgo consumption, which means that demand from packaging manufacturers is suffering. As a result, the recycling companies are currently coming under massive pressure," says Dr. Dirk Textor, Chairman of the bvse Plastics Recycling Association, describing the current situation.

An example of the tense situation is the closure of Veolia's PET recycling site in Rostock. Sales of flakes and regranulates are stagnating - Veolia can no longer operate its PET recycling plant economically on a long-term basis. Securing sales of recycled PET was not successful in cooperation with the beverage industry and/or trade, the reason given was.

“We see PET recycling as a whole in a difficult situation because bottlers and distributors of PET packaging are not fulfilling their product responsibility. A medium-term improvement in the situation is not in sight. The PET processors rely on new material and discard the recyclates,” criticizes Textor.

According to the bvse-Fachverband Kunststoffrecycling, this behavior of the PET processors is "very surprising" because recycled PET is the only plastic that can be used for packaging that comes into direct contact with food. According to the bvse, the market behavior of PET processors that can now be observed, who rely exclusively on virgin material, is short-sighted and highly problematic. One should not assume that a shut down plant can be started up again within a short time. Plants must be operated continuously in order to be able to produce the required quantities in suitable qualities. In the worst case, the system even disappears from the market altogether.

"And so things will get tight, very tight, when the high requirements of the European plastics strategy have to be implemented in the near future. Last but not least, very ambitious recyclate usage quotas are defined when the European packaging regulation is amended. This is one of the reasons why there will be a distribution battle for recycled PET in Europe,” bvse association chairman Dirk Textor is certain.

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