Europe's PET recycling industry is being threatened by what experts have called “persistent structural market failures” across the region.
According to Brussels-based trade body Plastics Recyclers Europe (EuPR) the current collection infrastructures have reached their limits.
EuPR said while the collection of PET bottles had stagnated at around 50%, uncollected PET was still being landfilled or incinerated.
“Europe is not maximising the sustainable use of a valuable resource such as post-consumer PET,” said Casper van den Dungen, chairman of the EuPR PET working group.
The group said due to intensive lightweighting and complex bottle design the average costs of recycling had increased substantially in recent years. Such increased costs cannot currently be corrected by further economies of scale, it said.
Conversely, recent years have seen an increase in demand for recycled PET, leading to a significant increase in investments in many new recycling lines.
Van den Dungen said “the combined effect of these market failures are causing recycling plants to operate at well below 75% of their capacity”.
And a potential lifting of currently existing anti-dumping duties on virgin PET “could further worsen the EU industry's position”.
“Until today, PET has been an undisputed success and example for sustainable development. It can remain so in the future if the collective moves upwards to another level and the virgin PET is fairly marketed,” van den Dungen added.
In order to boost PET resource efficiency, Europe needs a well-managed and balanced value chain, he argued.
EuPR was “striving to reform the current European Union (EU) PET recycling infrastructure and to improve the current imbalances – for this we will need support from other stakeholders and especially the EU institutions if the goals of the present and future EU Waste and Recycling Directives are to be achieved”, he added.