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Beyond Juice: Every aspect of the Beyond Juice container concept from KHS has been optimized to ensure the best possible recyclability. (Photo credit: KHS)

Systems supplier engaged in recycled PET research since 2012

KHS promotes closed plastics loop with sustainable systems and solutions

KHS GmbH Dortmund, Germany

The debate on plastic is presenting the beverage and food industries with a number of big challenges. The KHS Group is clear that the increased use of recycled PET provides a significant partial solution to this problem. The Dortmund systems supplier is thus focusing on sustainable products and services which help to close the recycling loop.

According to business magazine Forbes, around 140 PET bottles per head are circulated in Europe each year, with this figure more than twice that in the USA at 290. Despite all the criticism the plastic container is actually growing in popularity, with the number used increasing globally by around 4% per annum. Awareness of the need to recycle is also on the rise, however; according to Forbes, an estimated 57% of all used PET bottles were collected worldwide in 2019. For 2029 the magazine forecasts that this rate will increase to 68% – albeit with major differences from region to region. While 57% of all bottles could be collected in Europe, in the USA this would only amount to 30%. China, on the other hand, could become something of a model student and in ten years achieve an impressive collection rate of 82%. Collecting does not necessarily mean recycling, however: in the USA 70% of all collected plastics end up at waste disposal sites – and in Europe 30%.

High standards of quality

Not only do hurdles have to be overcome at the raw materials end; some beverage producers also have reservations. They often fear that the rPET material may discolor or that the level of intrinsic viscosity (2) may drop. Another issue are safety standards and thus the harmlessness of the material. Time and again the question is raised as to whether multiple recycling can affect the quality. Although this has not yet been fully researched in practice, one thing is clear: as the polymer chains reform, no compromises must be made as regards the material quality as long as the additives can be completely separated off. The European PET Bottle Platform (EPBP) is just one of the institutions that helps to assure high standards of quality with its clear specifications and certifications. Whereas just a few years ago experimentation was rife and the beverage and food industries gained their experience with recycled PET through sheer trial and error, from a technical standpoint there is now nothing preventing the global use of high percentages of recycled PET. More and more beverage producers and brands are even opting to use bottles made of 100% recyclate. Where this is not yet the case, voluntary commitments are being publicized; Poland Spring, one of the biggest water brands in the USA, and Evian want to use recycled PET only by 2025. The other brands by Danone Waters, Pepsi and Coca-Cola plan to introduce a worldwide quota of 50% by this date. Their objective? They would like the consumer to interpret the slight graying that can occur when PET bottles are recycled several times over as a hallmark of quality for sustainable packaging.

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