While the strong recycling performance of clear PET beverage bottles in some European countries has given PET/polyester a reputation as a ‘circular plastic system’, a new synthesis study from system change company Systemiq begs to differ.
According to this report, with today’s limited recycling capabilities, only about one quarter of this material is being successfully recycled. Implementing chemical recycling technologies at scale alongside existing mechanical recycling approaches could set the stage for both positive environmental benefits and transformative success for the wider PET/polyester industry, the authors write.
Using a combination of plastic recycling approaches, not only could very high recycling rates be achieved but the carbon emissions from the PET packaging and textiles system would also be reduced. The study, entitled Circularity of PET/polyester packaging and textiles in Europe, is the first in a two-part series exploring circularity pathways for PET/polyester. Financed by Eastman and Interzero, an independent steering group comprised of experts from the public sector, academia, civil society, and industry provided strategic guidance. Drawing on insights from 80+ published reports, research, and advice from industry experts, it assesses the current state of PET/polyester packaging and textile circularity in Europe. Among others, it looks at evidence for a positive role of PET/polyester recycling via depolymerisation alongside mechanical recycling and reuse.
As Sandeep Bangaru, VP of Circular Economy Platforms at Eastman Chemical Company, said: “We believe mechanical recycling should be used, when possible, but to keep more raw materials in the loop, chemical recycling is a necessary complement.”
“The world is facing a plastic waste crisis with far too little plastic waste being recycled…. The combination of mechanical and chemical recycling is a critical step closer toward a world without waste,” added Jacco De Haas, CCO at Interzero.