Growing interest in PET thermoform recycling market

May 2, 2011

Hey!

As introduced in last week’s post, I had an interesting conversation with a representative of one of the largest waste haulers and recyclers in America in regard to the market potential of recycling PET thermoforms post-consumer.

She found me via my blog and wanted to ask some follow up questions from my Recycling Report—specifically—what is the current market for PET thermoform recycling? Once she assesses the supply/demand of this waste stream, she will be better equipped to determine if recycling PET thermoforms would be a value-added endeavor for her company. Let’s just say I was THRILLED.

She began contextualizing her interest in PET thermoform recycling by noting that PET is the most recycled plastic resin by material type, as is it the most demanded. As noted many times over, industry insight suggests that the current demand for PET recyclate outweighs the supply 3:1. Due to aggressive Chinese buyers and the high cost of domestic sortation, about 2/3rds of all plastic scrap collected for recycling is sold overseas. Issues such as supply and demand, domestic vs. foreign end markets, contamination concerns, sorting technology, etc. were all touched upon over the duration of our conference call.

Data she was looking for specifically was how much PET thermoforms are generated in the waste stream annually, available for recycling/reprocessing. I referenced my Recycling Report, which cites a PlasticsToday.com article that states, “1.4 billion pounds of PET thermoforms were produced in North America in 2008;” this far exceeds the “critical mass” necessary to economically justify the collection of this package/material type in the context of material generation. However, when I attempted to further investigate this figure, I was unable to find the original article from which it was taken. After rummaging through all my files for the better part of the morning, I threw in the towel. Consequently, I sent the following email to my contact at ACC:

Hey there!

How’s it going?

A waste hauler and recycler contacted me in regard to the market potential of recycling PET thermoforms post-consumer. As you know, I have been working on researching this issue for some time, so I was thrilled to discover a venture capitalist group through this hauler/recycler was investigating the potential of recycling non-bottle rigids.

Part of this group’s research in this area is to “assess the current PET thermoform market;” that is, how many PET thermoforms are produced in North America annually that are available for post-consumer collection. When I wrote my Recycling Report, attached above, I referenced a PlasticsToday.com article that stated 1.4 billion lbs of PET thermoforms were produced in North America in 2008. When this company inquired into where I got this statistic from, I referenced PlasticsToday.com, but was surprised to discover that I couldn’t find said article after a thorough website search.

Anyway, I was wondering what data you have in regard to the following in the context of non-bottle rigid recycling:

Data on the type, volume and destination of non-bottle rigid plastic currently being collected and the potential volume available; and, non-bottle rigid bale specifications.

Any insight you could provide would be very well received. After about an hour on the phone, we parted ways, with an agreement to continue the research and dialogue.

One thing that this company representative did share is that NIR automated sorting systems are unable to sort PET from PETG, CPET, and other –PET based materials that have barrier resins or other components considered a contaminant to the PET recycling stream. That stinks! This is the first time I had heard that NIR automated sorting systems are unable to sort PET from other PET-based materials, wow! I wonder what sorting technologies they are using elsewhere to allow for a “quality” stream of PET recyclate, derived from thermoforms as opposed to bottles…

2 Responses to “Growing interest in PET thermoform recycling market”

  1. Mylene said

    It’s very interesting, Chandler. Thank you for sharing this information

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