2013 U.S. PET container recycling rate hits 31%, Volume 8, Issue 4

2013 U.S. PET container recycling rate hits 31%

Volume 8, Issue 4

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2013 U.S. PET container recycling rate hits 31%

  • The U.S. recycling rate for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers rose slightly in 2013 to 31.2% from 30.8% in 2012. U.S. communities collected more PET bottles than ever before—a total of 1,798 million pounds, according to the Report on Postconsumer PET Container Recycling Activity in 2013, published by the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), San Francisco, CA, and The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), Washington, DC. Total PET used in the production of U.S. bottles also rose, reaching 5,764 million pounds in 2013, despite sales declines in some beverage market sectors. These bottles contained a record 475 million pounds of recycled PET (rPET) content.

    Clean rPET flake produced by domestic PET reclaimers from U.S. bottles totaled 974 million pounds, an increase of 24% over 2012. The amount of rPET used across domestic end-use market segments also increased, to 1,513 million pounds in 2013 from 1,312 million pounds in 2012, with significant gains in bottle and fiber end uses. Export volumes continued to fall and represented only 26% of total collection volumes in 2013, the lowest volume since 2004 and the lowest by percentage of total collection since 2000.

    “Despite very real challenges for PET recyclers due to limited supply and decreasing bale yields, this report shows a maturing, entrepreneurial industry that continues to innovate and find new material sources and process efficiencies,” says Scott Saunders, APR chairman and general 

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  • manager of KW Plastics Recycling Division. “Notably, domestic recyclers are contributing more than 790 million pounds of material back into U.S. production of new PET packaging; this is a significant demonstration of domestic closed-loop manufacturing.”

  • Despite the growth, collection of PET bottles for recycling continues to lag far behind demand, underutilizing a domestic PET recycling infrastructure with more than 2 billion pounds of capacity. Low PET bale yields caused by the presence of non-PET materials in PET bales and the growth of non-recyclable package innovations increase reclaimer costs and impair rPET quality. To improve bale quality NAPCOR and APR promote recycling-friendly package design and broader collection. For design guidelines, visit http://plasticsrecycling.org/market-development/apr-design-guide-for-plastics-recyclability.

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Coalition works to recycle more foam packaging


Foam Recycling Coalition forms to boost recycling of expanded polystyrene (EPS) packaging. Target materials include foodservice packaging, such as cups, containers and dinnerware; processor trays; egg cartons; and transport packaging.
According to a recent study by the group, approximately 140 companies currently process or use recycled EPS, and demand is growing. To capture more post-consumer EPS, the Coalition plans to fund a multi-year grant program to help residential material recovery facilities (MRFs) recycle post-consumer EPS and add foam to curbside collection programs. Grants provide foam recycling equipment as well as technical assistance. The initial call for applications will occur early in 2015.
“The coalition’s grant program will capitalize on the market demand by providing assistance to economically sort, store, and transport post-consumer foam and thus, keep this valuable material from going to landfills,” says Lynn M. Dyer, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, Falls Church, VA, organizer of the Coalition. For more information, visit www.fpi.org/Stewardship.

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3D printing produces biodegradable container

Anita’s Balm, Lawrenceville, GA, now markets its skin-care product of the same name in a patent-pending, biodegradable polylactic acid (PLA) container. The 1-ounce twist-up container is produced via a 3D printing process, one of the first commercial packaging applications for 3D printing. The PLA container replaces a 1-ounce polystyrene push-up from a supplier to the craft and soap-making market.

Consumers find it so appealing, the first batch of 150 sold out in a few weeks. “I was attracted to PLA because of its compostability,” says Anita Redd, owner and founder of Anita’s Balm. “In specific conditions of light and heat, it will break down in 47-90 days compared to 500-1000 years for traditional plastic,” she reports.


“We get pellets from Industrial Hobbies, color them white, then extrude the filament and use it in our Maker Gear M2 [3D printer],” she explains. The M2 printer currently makes most of the PLA containers and can produce about 10 per day. Containers also are made on the company’s first 3D printer, a Prussia model, also from Maker Gear, Beachwood, OH.

“We like the flexibility to design our own container,” says Redd. Production via 3D printing reduces 
the time from order receipt to shipping. In addition, she says, “the environmental properties resonate with a lot of people and companies trying to care for the earth. It also goes along with my balm too, it is all natural.”
Redd plans to 3D-print other PLA containers: a sample size (0.25 ounce) and 2- and 4-ounce jars. She says, “I’d also like to expand Anita’s Balm product line to include a hand pump for the health care and education markets. They wash their hands so much for safety reasons, and they can get very dry. It is my dream to have Anita’s Balm, in an eco-friendly container, available to everyone on the planet struggling with a skin issue. My son was born with eczema and that’s why I developed Anita’s Balm. I’ve seen it alleviate his suffering along with many others, and having it in a sustainable container is icing on the cake!”

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‘Green’ cleaners update design to emphasize environmental attributes

Redesigned packaging for upgraded “green” cleaners from Ecover, San Francisco, CA, combines enhanced graphics with more ergonomically shaped containers.


Transparent bottles for laundry, home care and dish cleaners consist of Plantplastic®, Ecover’s blend of sugarcane-derived resin and post-consumer-recycled plastic, and provide product visibility. On the labels consumer-friendly symbols allow shoppers to easily identify products’ green benefits, while easy-to-read ingredient lists communicate exactly what is in each product. A softened logo relies on lowercase letters and a heart-leaf flower to signal nature-based science.

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App rates sustainability of food products

When grocery shopping how do you know if Brand A is more sustainable than Brand B? It’s hard to tell without a lot of time-consuming research. Not anymore. An app from HowGood, Brooklyn, NY, rates more than 100,000 products with scores of Great (three globes), Very Good (two globes), Good (one globe) or No Globes Earned. More than 60 indicators are used to measure a company’s behavior over time, 
the provenance of ingredients and the manufacturing process and quantifies whether a product is 
good for the environment, good for society and/or good for you. To check a rating, shoppers search for the product or scan its bar code. The mobile app can be downloaded from the AppStore or Google play. The ratings database also may be found on the HowGood website, www.howgood.com and is organized according to product type, e.g., eggs or cereal. In addition, retailers may subscribe and provide the ratings at point of sale. 

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Integrated approach to blowmolding cuts energy costs

A holistic approach and monitoring process settings minimize the energy needed to stretch-blowmold polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers. The strategy developed by Plastic Technologies, Inc. (PTI), Holland, OH, can save up to $500,000 per plant per year. The tighter process control also ensures consistently high quality containers.

To custom design an energy savings plan, PTI carefully analyzes each bottle manufacturing stage: bottle production (preform, bottle, relationship between the two and production platform); process purpose (package, quality, optimize process and line efficiency); machine conditions/capabilities (supply and quality of air); blowing cycle; oven control setup and configuration; process development and package performance validation.

“The key to creating a successful energy reduction program is to consider air delivery and air demand [blowmolding equipment] requirements at the same time,´ says Donald Miller, vice president, Technical Services, PTI. “In the past, companies have tended to focus on these as separate areas and not in concert with one another. Using a systems approach is the key to optimizing operational improvements,” he notes.

“In today’s environmentally-conscious environment, companies go out of their way to drive weight out of bottles and other packaging components, but they often overlook the significant amount of energy waste that occurs when running the equipment,” explains Miller. “Depending on how inefficient energy usage is, this can be a goldmine of ‘found money’ for the company,” he concludes. For more information, visit www.plastictechnologies.com.

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Sustainability efforts broaden into corporate citizenship goals

As consumer packaged goods companies and packaging suppliers achieve sustainability goals and set higher targets, attention is moving beyond environmental initiatives to what can be described as “good corporate citizenship.”

Butterball, Garner, NC, for example, focuses on four areas of operation: People, Plate, Planet and Philanthropy. Its Traditions with Purpose corporate citizenship platform not only includes a commitment to animal care and well-being, but also protects associates, preserves the environment and invests in local communities. This includes becoming the first national turkey brand to become an American Humane Certified producer. This “signifies that Butterball is committed to the welfare of the animals in its care, meeting some 200 rigorous, scientifically based standards ensuring everything from adequate space to proper lighting, air quality, humane treatment, and the ability to engage in natural behaviors,” explains Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association, Washington, DC.

PepsiCo, Purchase, NY, also takes a multi-faceted approach. It’s called Performance with Purpose. Recent efforts include a commitment to phase out hydroflourocarbon (HFC) coolers, vending machines and fountain dispensers by 2020 and signing two calls to action on climate change: the Ceres BICEP Climate Declaration and the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group Trillion Tonne Communique.

Phasing out HFC-based equipment will minimize use of the greenhouse gas, which is implicated in climate change. The goal is part of a recently launched partnership with the Obama Administration and other U.S. companies, which aims to reduce global consumption of HFCs by the equivalent of 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide—or 1.5% of the world’s 2010 GHG emissions—through 2025. Since 2007 PepsiCo has registered an 18% decline in its emissions by installing HFC-free equipment and energy efficiency improvements to existing coolers and vending machines. PepsiCo publicizes its efforts on Pinterest via a searchable map of Performance with Purpose and global citizenship projects.

The Procter & Gamble Co., Cincinnati, OH, operates under 12 Environmental Sustainability Goals and has expanded its social sustainability work by supporting disaster relief efforts and programs such as Children’s Safe Drinking Water and the Pampers UNICEF partnership.

Salt of the Earth, Atlit, Israel, complies with G4 Guidelines, established by the Global Reporting Initiative, one of only 36 companies worldwide to do so. The guidelines go beyond minimum ecological impact to include wild life preservation, natural processing, water waste management, product innovation, employee training/development and community investment. Salt of the Earth produces pure sea salt from the Red Sea and Dead Sea by evaporating the salt in a pond system near the sea. Rinsing salt with sea water has cut the company’s fresh water consumption 90%. Care is taken to preserve the balance of marine life around its pipelines and management also collaborates with environmental and bird watching organizations to create habitats at company sites where migrating birds can be observed. For consumers concerned about sodium intake, the company offers low-sodium products and sodium-reduction ingredients. Closer to home, the Salt of the Earth continually trains and develops its employees. Approximately 36% of its workforce volunteer regularly, and the company donates 2% of corporate profits to volunteer organizations.

Tom’s of Maine, Kennebunk, ME, encouraged consumers to make a difference on Sep. 4, 2014, its social-media-powered Day of Good. Part of the company’s annual 50 States for Good program, this year’s effort helped select amenities for renovation of a park in Detroit, MI. Support was generated by consumer participation online and a $25,000 donation by Tom’s of Maine. The Day of Good also included a Twitter party with AnnaSophia Robb. The actress took live questions and shared how she finds causes to get involved in.

Now five years old, the 50 States for Good program has donated $10,000 to a nonprofit in each 
state plus Washington, DC. Nominations were made by the public in the form of short essays.
Since its founding more than 44 years ago, Tom's of Maine has sponsored hundreds of nonprofit efforts by giving 10% of its profits back to organizations that support human and environmental goodness and by encouraging employees to use 5% (12 days) of employee time to volunteer.

For more information, visit www.ButterballCorp.com, www.americanhumane.org, www.pepsico.com, www.pg.com, www.saltoftheearthltd.com, www.globalreporting.org, www.tomsofmaine.com.


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AMERIPEN revamps website

The American Institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN), Wakefield, MA, redesigns its website to present up-to-date, fact-based information about packaging and the environment. The easier-to-navigate site also presents a new tagline: “Informed Packaging Policy Starts Here.”

“As we’ve grown, so has the need to provide the type of high-quality information that stakeholders from our various sectors – legislative, packaging, solid waste, retailing, and marketing – require to make sound decisions regarding packaging policy and post-use recovery,” says Donna Dempsey, executive director of AMERIPEN. “Our new site strongly addresses these needs and provides current information very much in line with our charter of being science-based and material-neutral,” she concludes. For more information, visit www.ameripen.org.


About the author
Hallie Forcinio has covered packaging-related environmental topics for more than 25 years, first as an editor on Food & Drug Packaging magazine (now Food & Beverage Packaging) and more recently as a freelance packaging journalist and principal of Forcinio Communications, an editorial services firm. “My interest in the environment dates back to a high school government class,” she notes. “I was collecting glass, newspapers and aluminum cans for recycling long before my community had a curbside recycling program.” In addition to preparing the TricorBraun Sustainability Times, she contributes articles to numerous trade publications including Packaging Machinery Technology and Pharmaceutical Technology.

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