European PET recyclers have seen the average bale yield drop from 73% to 68% in the years since 2011, due to the decrease in the quality of the baled PET.
Not only has this led to substantially higher costs, recyclers must also discard more material to achieve good quality recycled PET.
Various factors have contributed to the steadily worsening yield.
The bottles being baled has become increasingly thinner, causing the moisture content of the bales to rise. The thinner flakes from these bottles are also more likely to be discarded during the recycling process.
Moreover, the PET waste stream is becoming more heterogeneous; non-bottles now make up some 18% of this stream and this fraction is set to grow, plus, today, opaque PET bottles and PET trays are entering the coloured PET bales.
Even though PET is the most widely recycled plastic, the various stakeholders should work on eco-design of PET products to improve its recyclability, said Casper van den Dungen, PRE Vice-President and Chairman of the PET Working Group.
“Most importantly, the EPR schemes must urgently upgrade their sorting requirements to safeguard the proven quality of recycled PET from bottle stream and strongly support the developing of new dedicated streams for opaque PET bottles and PET trays,” he added.