The U.S. PET bottle recycling rate dropped slightly in 2019, to 27.9 percent, continuing what's been a decade of the rate hovering near 30 percent and essentially stagnating.
But the head of the PET sector's main trade group points to signs of change that could bode well, like increasing support for bottle bills, more focus on recycled content and investment in new recycling capacity.
The National Association for PET Container Resources released its annual PET bottle recycling report on Dec. 1, calculating that the rate dropped from 28.9 percent in 2018 to 27.9 percent last year.
NAPCOR Executive Director Darrel Collier said there's a need to collect more material to meet increased demand, particularly in bottles. That's led NAPCOR to come out with a policy statement essentially supporting bottle bills.
The group adopted the policy in the summer calling for "well designed incentive systems" to increase the recycling rate but had not publicly announced the new position, he said.
It means the group, which represents the PET bottle making supply chain, now supports container deposit systems like Oregon's that have a strong role for industry in the operations, Collier said.
"The way I've described it is we have a policy statement that supports incentivized collection as a way to increase collection, which we see the most critical need in this industry today," he said. "It's hard to deny what we are talking about is something similar to what we have in a state like Oregon."
NAPCOR's report also presented for the first time a PET recycling rate for North America, using statistics from Canada and Mexico, and calculated a 35 percent rate for PET bottles in the three nations. It did not provide separate rates for Canada and Mexico.
In a news release, NAPCOR noted that the rate is above the 30 percent threshold for recycling and composting set by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to demonstrate that a material can be recycled "in practice and at scale."