U.S. PET container recycling rate exceeds 30%, Volume 7, Issue 6

U.S. PET container recycling rate exceeds 30%

Volume 7, Issue 6

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U.S. PET container recycling rate exceeds 30%

Recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers continues to grow in the United States, setting records across the board in 2012. Statistics in the Report on Postconsumer PET Container Recycling Activity in 2012, published by the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), Sonoma, CA, and the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR), Washington, DC, indicate:

  • A 30.8% PET recycling rate
  • 1.718 billion pounds of postconsumer bottles collected
  • 930 million pounds of recycled PET (rPET) produced by U.S. reclaimers
  • 1.3 billion pounds of rPET used across major market segments


“The increase in the PET recycling rate is clear evidence of continued strong, domestic end-market demand for rPET, and we believe there’s considerable scope for U.S. industry to readily absorb more rPET material if available,” says Tom Busard, chairman of both NAPCOR and APR, chief procurement officer for Plastipak Packaging, Inc., Plymouth, MI, and president of Clean Tech, Plastipak’s recycling affiliate. “This strong demand continues to drive domestic investment, and it fuels jobs and related economic growth,” he adds, noting, “In 2012 we saw significant increases in rPET use in fiber, sheet and film, food and beverage bottles and strapping endmarket categories in the United States.”

Another positive trend is the increase in domestic reclamation and a decline in exports of PET bottles. Export volumes have been falling since peaking in 2008. The 2012 data reflect the lowest export volume since 2005, and at 34%, the lowest percentage since 2001 relative to the total volume of PET collected.

Despite these positive developments, challenges remain. Although rPET volumes increased, supply did not keep pace with demand even though domestic PET reclamation plants collectively are only operating at an estimated 63% of capacity.

Bale yield—the amount of usable PET at the end of the reclaiming process—also has declined due to the lower quality typical of curbside-collected containers and contaminants such as full-body shrink labels. For more information, visit www.napcor.comwww.plasticsrecycling.org.

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Paper labels contain 85% recycled content

Coated-one-side (C1S) Future Label paper from FutureMark Paper Group, Westport, CT, now contains 85% recycled content. An advanced deinking process achieves the 5% increase in recycled content and produces a blue-white paper with a brightness rating of 88. An upgraded coating enhances printability of the 55- or 60-pound stock.

Several converters produce labels from the Future Label paper, including Fort Dearborn Cc., Elk Grove, IL, and Connemara Converting, Bolingbrook, IL. “Future Label is the perfect fit for our green-minded customers who want an excellent sustainable packaging solution,” explains Tim Nicholson, senior vice president of Marketing and Technical Services at Fort Dearborn. For more information, visit www.futuremarkpaper.com/products.htmlwww.fortdearborn.comwww.connemaraconverting.com.

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O-I joint venture opens glass recycling center

Glass to Glass. a joint venture between Owens-Illinois Inc. (O-I), Perrysburg, OH, and eCullet Inc., Palo Alto, CA, uses eCullet’s proprietary technology to produce high-quality, color-sorted, contaminant-free, furnace-ready cullet for O-I’s Portland plant.

One reason O-I and eCullet chose Portland is the steady supply of high-quality recycled glass from the Oregon Container Deposit Program. Although adjacent Washington is not a deposit state, the Glass to Glass facility also will process glass containers collected there.

“Using recycled glass in our manufacturing process is important to O-I’s sustainability efforts,” reports Pedro Tchmola, manager of O-I’s Portland plant. “This new facility will help us to reduce our use of virgin raw materials, lowering our overall environmental impact,” he explains. Every 10% of recycled glass used in the manufacturing process reduces energy costs 2-3% and greenhouse gas emissions 4-10%.

O-I’s Portland plant produces more than 1 million containers per day, primarily beer bottles for local microbreweries.

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America Recycles Day provides ideas for sustainable actions

Each November a variety of organizations celebrate America Recycles Day and encourage consumers to make recycling a daily activity. The annual event provides a good time to highlight ideas, implement action and meet consumer expectations.

Consumers not only believe product companies and their brands play a crucial role in recycling, but also expect food and beverage brands to actively help increase the recycling of their packaging, according to survey conducted by Research Data + Insights, New York, NY, on behalf of the Carton Council of North America, Vernon Hills, IL. In fact, 76% of the respondents said they look for information on the package first to determine its recyclability. Less popular sources of this information include the company’s website (33%) or the consumer’s city website (26%). “First and foremost, this survey reiterates the importance of including a recycling message on product packaging,” says Jason Pelz, vice president of Recycling Projects for the Carton Council of North America and vice president, Environment, Tetra Pak North America, Vernon Hills, IL.

Participating in America Recycles Day bolsters the recycling process itself. In conjunction with this annual event, the American Beverage Association (ABA), Washington, DC, undertakes initiatives to minimize waste and support recycling. A Public Space Recycling Pilot, launched in 2012, placed more than 100 recycling bins in parks, boardwalks, marinas, sports fields and beaches in Palm Beach County, Florida. One year later, public space litter has dropped 75%. In addition, all locations experienced a decline in trash disposal and an increase in recycling.

After surpassing its original goal, ABA member Dr Pepper Snapple (DPS), Plano, TX, set a target to recycle 90% of its manufacturing waste by 2015. In 2012, DPS recycled 82% of its manufacturing solid waste, diverting more than 32,000 tons from landfills. Externally, the company partners with Keep America Beautiful, Stamford, CT, to fund placement of recycling bins in public parks across the country to collect containers that might otherwise end up in a landfill.

In a continuing partnership with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, Sunny Delight Beverages Co., Cincinnati, OH, is helping local schools implement single-stream recycling and teach students about environmental stewardship.

Nestle Waters North America, Stamford, CT, works with Recycling Reinvented, Shoreview, MN, a coalition of recycling stakeholders, which promotes an extended producer responsibility model as the means of increasing U.S. recycling rates for waste packaging and printed material.

KW Plastics Recycling, Troy, AL, a reprocessor of post-consumer high-density polyethylene and polypropylene (PP) and supplier of premium post-consumer resins for packaging and non-packaging applications, encourages businesses and individuals to take the America Recycles Day Pledge.

“At KW, our commitment to the environment encompasses more than just the services we provide in the actual plastics recycling process,” explains J. Scott Saunders, general manager of KW Plastics, Recycling Division. “…our commitment also includes providing plastic recycling education for the general public and technical assistance to businesses pursuing innovative recyclable products. Not only can individuals engage in small acts such as curbside recycling, they can also participate in community drop-off recycling programs to create a viable second life for plastics goods. Many may not realize that reclaimed plastic bottles, containers and bulky rigids like pails and lawn furniture often become everything from new bottles to paint cans to even parts of their automobile,” he says.

For businesses, initiatives range from providing recycling outlets for employees to developing recyclable products. “We were very excited when Berry Plastics Group, Inc. [Evansville, IN] came to us to test the recyclability of their new #5 plastic Versalite cup,” recalls Saunders. “Our test results demonstrated that the Versalite cups behaved just like standard PP in the recycling stream. Berry Plastics’ innovation and our tests helped bring to market a viable alternative to today’s…less-recyclable to-go hot cups,” he concludes. For more information, visit www.cartonopportunities.orgwww.kab.orgwww.recycling-reinvented.orgwww.kwplastics.comwww.AmericaRecyclesDay.org.

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The Great American Can RoundUp

Annual challenge collects 178,000 pounds of aluminum cans

The Great American Can RoundUp Industry Challenge, sponsored by the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), Washington, DC, collected and recycled 178,000 pounds of aluminum beverage cans in 2013, raising more than $133,600 for local charities across the United States.


Ball Corp., Broomfield, CO, came in first place overall in the annual competition by recycling 88,473 pounds of cans, nearly 50% of the amount collected. Rexam’s North American beverage can headquarters office in Chicago topped the list of facility winners, recycling more than 55,700 pounds of aluminum cans (671 pounds per employee), which equates to more than $42,000 raised for local charities.

Other participants included Crown Holdings Inc., Philadelphia, PA; Novelis, Atlanta, GA; and Alcoa, New York, NY. In addition to collecting used bevcans, participating plants partner with local schools, charities and other organizations to spread the recycling message. CMI sponsors other competitions under the Great American Can RoundUp umbrella to promote recycling with school students, scouts and service academy cadets around the country. For more information, visit www.cancentral.com/roundup.


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Partition-free multipack wins environmental kudos


  • The Tite-Pak® beverage multipack carton from Graphic Packaging International, Atlanta, GA, wins the Innovation in Sustainability Award from the American Forest & Paper Association (AFPA), Washington, DC. Recognized in AFPA’s Better Practices, Better Planet 2020/Sustainability Awards, the Tite-Pak design reduces glass bottle breakage, eliminates partitions and promotes renewable paperboard packaging.

    Partition-free multipackThe Tite-Pak design also received recognition from the Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC), Springfield, MA. It not only won the Eco Award in its 2013 Carton Competition, but also received a General Excellence Award and an Innovation Gold Award. The design replaces partitions with “shark fins,” which use existing material from the bottom of the carton to separate and protect the bottles at the heel level. The fins are engaged online after the carton has been sealed and filled, tightening it from within. Reducing the relative motion of the bottles and related “clanking” noise during handling increases consumer confidence and enhances brand identity.

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  • A Tite-Pak machine, also from Graphic Packaging, integrates with existing equipment without impacting line speeds. “The development of Tite-Pak packaging demonstrates how a total system solution can generate transformational innovation,” says AFPA President and CEO Donna Harman. “The reduction in bottle breakage and packaging material can save…millions of dollars while also reducing greenhouse gas

    (GHG) emissions,” she adds. In fact, research shows conversion to 12- or 18-count Tite-Pak multipacks reduces GHG 30% versus corrugated cases. For more information, visit www.afandpa.org/sustainabilitywww.ppcnet.orgwww.graphicpkg.com.

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LED lighting cuts energy costs, generates nine-month payback

LED lighting

Perishable Distributors of Iowa (PDI), Ankeny, IA, forecasts a savings of more than $74,000 per year in energy and related cooling costs with installation of SmartLighting LED lighting from SmartWatt Energy Inc., Ballston Lake, NY. With a substantial rebate from its utility supplier, MidAmerican Energy, Des Moines, IA, PDI anticipates payback in nine months.

PDI replaced 722 T-8 fluorescent lighting fixtures with 351 energy-efficient SmartLighting LED fixtures and added motion-based lighting controls. Superior performance means better quality and quantity of light with fewer fixtures. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equals planting 333 acres of trees, according to calculations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC.

“Sustainability projects allow us to operate more efficiently, while improving the environment for future generations,” concludes Jim Brandt, senior vice president of Warehousing at PDI, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Midwest supermarket chain, Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, IA. For more information, visit www.smartwattinc.com.

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Ford uses PlantBottle technology to make fabric for cars


PlantBottle technology from The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, GA, moves beyond packaging with adoption by Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, MI. Resulting polyester fabric contains 30% plant-based content and covers seat cushions, seat backs, head restraints, door panel inserts and headliners in Ford’s Fusion Energi research vehicle.

“This collaboration with Ford demonstrates that PlantBottle Technology can be applied anywhere polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic is traditionally used, but with a lighter footprint on the planet,” says Scott Vitters, general manager, PlantBottle Packaging Platform at Coca-Cola. “We are pleased to share this technology with Ford, and look forward to continuing to expand the application of PlantBottle Technology.”

“By using PlantBottle technology in a plug-in hybrid, Ford and Coca-Cola are showing the broad potential to leverage renewable materials that help replace petroleum and other fossil fuels, reducing the overall environmental impact of future vehicles,” says John Viera, Ford’s global director of Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental Matters.


“This atypical partnership is a great model for other businesses to follow, and can have a measurable impact on critical environmental issues,” concludes Erin Simon, manager, Business and Industry, Packaging and Material Science, World Wildlife Fund, Washington, DC.

Adoption of PlantBottle technology builds on a series of environmental innovations for Ford. Select models of the 2014 Ford Fusion feature seat fabric made from recycled PET bottles, and all models include sound-absorbing denim material in the carpet liner and soybean foam seat cushions.


Since Coca-Cola introduced PlantBottle technology in 2009 as the first recyclable PET bottle made partially from plants, more than 18 billion PlantBottle packages have been distributed in 28 countries, saving more than 400,000 barrels of oil. If PlantBottle interior fabrics were adopted across the majority of U.S. Ford models, it would displace nearly 4 million pounds of petroleum-derived materials, as well as save the equivalent of 295,000 gallons of gasoline and 6,000 barrels of oil.

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Renewable “mushroom”-based cushioning

Fungi treatment converts agricultural waste to cushioning

Renewable “mushroom”-based cushioning from Ecovative Design, Green Island, NY, protects fragile products from several consumer products companies. The biodegradable, compostable and flame-retardant material is derived from agricultural waste and exhibits performance characteristics similar to extruded polystyrene foam.


Developed in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Washington, D.C., the renewable alternative to petrochemical-based cushioning is based on research by Greg Holt, an engineer at the ARS Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit in Lubbock, Texas.

The patented process blends and pasteurizes cotton gin or other agricultural waste, embeds it in a custom tool and injects it with fungi at the mycelium stage. As the mycelium grows, it converts the waste into a consistently textured, solid mass. Within a couple days, it’s ready to be removed from the tool and baked to halt growth of the fungi. For more information, visit www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/nov13/www.ecovativedesign.com.

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