PET recycling

NAPCOR’s 2021 PET recycling report shows largest amount of postconsumer PET ever collected in U.S

Charlotte, NC, United States

The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) has released its 2021 PET Recycling Report. Several significant first-time achievements were documented in the industry effort to increase PET use and reuse.

In 2021 NAPCOR documented the largest amount of postconsumer PET ever collected; bottle collection in the U.S. exceeded 1.9 billion pounds for the first time. Thermoforms collected in the U.S./Canada reached its highest-ever of 142 million pounds. The report also documented an overall increase in PET recycling rates with the U.S. rate at 28.6% (up from 27.1% in 2020) and the North American (U.S., Canada and Mexico) rate being 36.8% (up from 34.2% in 2020).

“These rates mark two major milestones in the growth of PET awareness, appreciation, use and reuse,” said Laura Stewart, NAPCOR Executive Director. “The 2021 increase is a powerful indicator that pandemic-driven disruptions to recycling services are getting back on track. It is also important to point out that the North American rate is over the 30% recycling threshold suggested by the Ellen McArthur Foundation. This is viewed by many industry pundits as the postconsumer benchmark for proving that recycling works in practice and scale across multiple regions representing at least 400 million inhabitants.”

“The rebound in the amount of PET bottles collected in 2021 is encouraging,” adds Tom Busard, NAPCOR Chairman, Chief Polymers and Recycling Officer for Plastipak Packaging, Inc., and President of Clean Tech, Plastipak’s recycling affiliate. “PET recycling is working, but there is a need to see increased collection to meet both legislated and voluntary recycled content demands of the future.”

Supporting the concept that COVID-19 disruptions to PET recycling have finally been overcome, the 2021 NAPCOR PET Recycling Report indicates:

  • A significant rebound of PET was collected via deposit redemption systems, which increased by 46% compared to deposit redemption in 2020.
  • For the second consecutive year, end use market consumption of RPET used in Food/Beverage and Non-Food/Beverage Bottle categories, once again surpassed demand in the RPET fiber market in U.S./Canada markets.
  • As a single category, Food/Beverage alone took the largest share of RPET consumption.
  • The U.S. RPET textile fiber industry faced higher prices and more competition for clear RPET in 2021, but still achieved a total RPET fiber production of over 1 billion pounds. This was achieved by sourcing greater volumes of colored RPET flake (57%) and greater volumes of post-industrial RPET flake (11%) compared to 2019.
  • Finally, in 2021, there is the first real evidence of a movement toward tray-to-tray circularity. A total of 11 million pounds of PET thermoforms were used by thermoform converters to produce more thermoforms. Also, a record 142 million pounds of PET thermoforms were collected for recycling, 73% of which was processed by PET Reclaimers in the U.S. and Canada.

“At NAPCOR, we continue our work to educate the public on how PET differentiates itself from other packaging formats, allowing brand owners to leverage its recycling value,” said Stewart. “Beyond being recyclable over and over again, PET has often-overlooked benefits, including decreased food spoilage, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and an overall stronger environmental profile compared to other packaging materials. The more we increase awareness of PET and motivate proper, consistent recycling levels, the closer we will get to put the U.S. on par with global recycling rates and, most importantly, the greater the impact we will have on the planet.”

PETnology's Resource Guide
comPETence center

The comPETence center provides your organisation with a dynamic, cost effective way to promote your products and services.

Find out more

Our premium articles

Find our premium articles, interviews, reports and more
in 3 issues in 2023.

Find out more
Current issue