Over 66 billion PET bottles recycled in Europe in 2014

Over 66 billion PET bottles… The equivalent of 66 billion 1.5L PET bottles were collected and recycled in 2014, representing 57% of bottles and containers placed in the market. This conclusion comes from a report carried out by PCI PET Packaging Resin & Recycling Ltd for Petcore Europe from a Europe-wide survey among actors involved in the collection, sorting and recycling of PET.

"PET collection and recycling continue to increase and to be a success story over the last 25 years. PET is by far the most recycled plastic material in Europe. However, we can do even better and actively contribute to the European Circular Economy, especially as PET now penetrates new applications," explains Petcore Europe Executive Director Patrick Peuch.

The results will be presented during the Petcore Europe Conference in Brussels on 24 November.

Looking at the 2014 collection rates in Europe shows that with 1,8 million metric tons of bottles and containers, PET collection has grown by 6.8% compared to 2013. Comparing this number to an estimated 3,1 million metric tons demand for bottles and containers placed in the market during this period suggests a 57% collection rate. In 2014, the growth in PET demand itself increased by 4.8%.

"Although the collection rate increased by 1.3% over the 2013 rate, it clearly illustrates the need for a two-sided approach," outlines Patrick Peuch. "On one hand, our industry has to work together to align the collection processes to deliver increased recycling objectives. On the other hand, consumers have to be more engaged. Raising consumers' awareness on the importance of collection and the value of recycling, especially in the context of the European Commission Circular Economy approach, and their own role in the process are key."

Furthermore, the collection rates vary considerably across Europe, with a number of Member States exceeding the average 57% while several others are still lagging behind where much more can be done and should be done.

In 2014, 1,7 million metric tons of PET were recycled in Europe. With an installed processing capacity estimated of circa 2,1 million metric, the recycling industry operating rate reached only 79%, lower than the 83% rate of 2013. This decrease illustrates the challenges that the PET industry had to face in 2014, in particular the pricing throughout the RPET (recycled PET) chain and pressure from low virgin PET resin prices that occurred during the last quarter of the year.

Furthermore, the processed PET volume in 2014 was also below the collection volume. According to the survey participants, this difference is due to process losses, maintenance shut downs as well as shift programmed and production schedules adjusted to available bale supplies. The latter, issues related to bale supplies, was cited as one of the main contributing factors to lower productivity in 2014. The evolution of PET resin pricing and demand for recycled PET remain uncertain for the future.