Petcore Europe working group studies PET thermoforms recycling

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Petcore Europe's Thermoforms Working Group, which aims to increase and improve the recycling of PET trays into a third life, has held a public workshop to review the activities and progress made in the recycling PET thermoforms.

The workshop, held a session on 19 Sept, studied design for recycling; collection, sorting and recycling as well as potential applications for PET thermoforms. 

Some of main challenges discussed during the workshop included design issues, such as big labels and their glues which are not easy for recycling, as well as soaker pads and their unsuitable glues. 

Sorting software and technologies as well as developing applications for recycled PET thermoforms were among other issues discussed during the workshop. 

“Several studies have shown that washing, extrusion and solid stating result in a good quality material for coloured applications. Retailers can increase the amount of deep coloured trays for vegetables and fruits and are invited to work with packaging producers on this solution,” it was said at the workshop. 

A market estimation by the working group suggests that PET is the preferred solution for monolayer, laminated and high gas-barrier trays, while PS and PP are alternatives for open trays and clamshells. 

North European countries, found the working group, tend to have more mono-PET thermoforms than laminated and high gas-barrier PET ones, while it is the opposite for South Europe. 

Currently, the total market within the EU, Switzerland and Norway is estimated to be 1 to 1.1 million tonnes of PET virgin and r-PET, including imports.

According to the findings of the group, PET thermoforms is “the number one” end-market for post-consumer recycled PET and has reached higher numbers than the PET bottle to bottle and fibres end-markets. 

In 2016, a total of 490 kilotonnes of r-PET was recycled into new thermoforms, which means an average recycle content in PET thermoforms of more than 45%. 

The figure showed a 10% rise compared to 443 kilotonnes in 2015.

Petcore Europe is a Brussels-based association representing the complete PET value chain in the region.

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