Processing Magazine

PET water bottle recycling rates on the rise

February 22, 2013

Manufacturers of bottled water are on the right path to reducing the environmental footprint of their products. According to new data from the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) and the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC), the recycling rate of PET water bottles has risen by 19.7 percent in just 12 months, the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) reported.

In 2010 the proportion of recycled PET water bottles came in at 32.25 percent, while in 2011 around 39 percent of all single-serve PET plastic bottled water containers in the United States were recycled. In 2011, 500 million pounds of plastic water bottles were recycled out of the 1.3 billion pounds available for recycling, according to an IBWA news release. PET plastic bottled water containers were the most frequently recycled PET beverage containers in U.S. recycling programs. Looking further back in time, recycling rates have more than doubled in seven years.

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The statement also announced that the amount of plastic used in single-serve PET bottled water containers is decreasing. In 2011 the average weight of a 16.9oz (half-liter) single-serve PET water bottle was 9.9g, or 47.8 percent less than in 2000. It is estimated that the drop in weight has saved 3.3 billion pounds of PET resin over the past 11 years, IBWA noted.

All these figures highlight the ongoing commitment of the bottled water industry to become more sustainable by increasing recycling rates and curbing its overall environmental footprint, the association said. Chris Hogan, IBWA vice president of communications, commented that the industry is implementing a series of measures that aim to minimize the negative impact it has on the environment and the latest findings from NAPCOR and BMC prove that they are successful.

Bottled water containers are 100 percent recyclable and PET plastic bottled water packaging accounts for less than one percent of the total amount of plastic products manufactured in the United States. In addition, PET plastic water containers represent only about one-third of one percent of the U.S. waste stream, Hogan stated.

Meanwhile, the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR) has warned that full-wrap labels on PET bottles are turning into a major challenge for the recycling industry. More than 80 percent of all full-wrap labels can be found on PET plastic bottles, as they are increasingly appealing to manufacturers. Full-wrap labels do not require the use of adhesives and colorants on bottles and have a number of other positive characteristics but they are an obstacle for recycling plants and can even sometimes stop the entire process, Steve Alexander, president of the APR, told Food Production Daily. He called for a collaboration between all parties involved, so that a solution to the problem can be found, and asked industry representatives to propose available and viable options to tackle the issue.