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10 Takeaways from the PET Recycling Report

The recycling rate for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) declined slightly in 2014, although total volume of bottles collected and generated hit record highs.

The data comes from the annual report on PET post-consumer recycling activity by the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), according to a news release.

Here are 10 takeaways from the PET report.

  1. The PET recycling rate dipped to 31 percent compared with 2013’s rate of 31.2 percent. That 2013 rate was the record high, and the rate previously had climbed each year since 2004, when it was 21.6 percent.
  2. Total bottles collected totaled 1.812 billion pounds, the highest amount since 2004. That nearly doubled the amount collected 10 years ago.
  3. Total bottles available for recycling also reached an all-time high of 5.849 billion pounds. By comparison, in 2004 the total was 4.637 billion pounds.
  4. PET bottle bales purchased by export markets dropped 14 percent to 414 million pounds, the lowest total since 2004. Exports have fallen steadily since a 2008 high of 836 million pounds. 
  5. Exports totaled just 23 percent of total post-consumer PET volumes, the lowest percentage of domestic material since 2000.
  6. Total domestic end-use of recycled PET increased to a record high of 1.564 million pounds in 2014 from 1.513 billion a year earlier. The latest results included significant gains in the fiber and sheet end-use market categories. The total virtually triples the amount used more than a decade ago.
  7. The take from Tom Busard, NAPCOR chairman and also with Plastipak Packaging Inc.: “We continue to see strong domestic demand for recycled PET in fiber, sheet, bottles and other market sectors.  … Despite some very real challenges in 2014, including low oil prices and volatile markets, the North American PET reclamation industry continues to process and market more material than ever before.”
  8. And from APR Chairman Scott Saunders, KW Plastics Recycling Division: “While the industry still struggles with persistent issues like poor bale quality, it is resilient and robust, and continues to support significant domestic jobs and economic activity.”
  9. Both groups addressed the industry’s continued challenges. A particular focus is how to maximize the capture of PET from the waste stream, reduce non-PET contamination in recycling streams, and encourage awareness and understanding of designing for recyclability.
  10. In his latest column on commodity pricing, Waste360 columnist Bob Boulanger reported that PET prices have been falling significantly since June, from 14.5 cents per pound to 10.9 cents per pound.
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