PET Recycling Report

NAPCOR's 2020 PET recycling report reveals an 800 million pound increase of recycled pet for end market use over the past decade

Charlotte, SC, United States

The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) announced the release of its 2020 PET Recycling Report. Overall, the 26th annual report revealed a 10 percent increase in end use consumption of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) in the U.S. and Canada. This increase signals strong support of postconsumer content in brand packaging, and demonstrates the resiliency of PET’s value in recycling-minded communities — even during a pandemic.

Examining the use of RPET in specific end markets, the 2020 Report positions the industry at a pivotal point where Food/Beverage and Non-Food/Beverage Bottle categories grew by 32 percent in total, surpassing fiber for the first time as the largest end market user of postconsumer PET bottles.

In addition, over the past decade, there has been a cumulative increase in RPET consumption in U.S. and Canadian markets, climbing from 1 billion pounds in 2010 to 1.8 billion pounds in 2020.

“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,” states Tom Busard, NAPCOR Chairman, Chief Procurement Officer for Plastipak Packaging, Inc., and President of Clean Tech, Plastipak’s recycling affiliate.

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

While demand was strong, collection of polyethylene (PET) bottles decreased by approximately 2.3 percent in the United States, which resulted in a 26.6 percent recycling rate for PET plastic bottles, a decrease from the 2019 rate of 27.9 percent. The decline in recycling rate is not surprising, given the challenges faced in 2020, including closure of redemption centers and disruption in curbside recycling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 North American PET recycling rate is 33.9 percent, which incorporates statistics from Mexico and Canada, in addition to the U.S. This is a slight drop from the 35 percent reported in 2019.

New in the 2020 PET Recycling Report is an in-depth PET Thermoform Market Analysis including postconsumer collection volumes of these packages which surpassed 2019 numbers.
“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,” states Darrel Collier, NAPCOR Executive Director. “We have worked to better understand the challenges involved with recycling PET thermoforms, which still exist, and are encouraged with the work being done by our PET reclamation and thermoform industry to incorporate into packaging; thus, closing the loop.”

NAPCOR continues to work to address the industry’s ongoing challenges, with particular focus on methods to increase the amount of PET that gets recycled. This is the 26th year that the PET Recycling Report has been issued.


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