Germany's success in PET bottle recycling


Thursday, 08 December, 2016


Germany is leading the way in PET bottle recycling, according to a study which has found PET bottles are recycled at a total of about 93.5%, while one-way deposit PET bottles have reached 97.9%.

The industry is also continuing on its aim of supplying more recycled PET into the materials cycle, with the average share of recycled PET in bottle production increasing in 2015 compared to 2013, despite the adverse price development in recycled compared to virgin PET.

“PET bottles take the lion’s share in recycling rates compared to other forms of packaging,” said Dr Isabell Schmidt, director of the Forum PET within the German Association for Plastics Packaging and Films that commissioned the study.

High return rate keeps materials cycle going

Forum PET believes the deposits placed on disposable bottles are a primary reason for the achievement. “Consumers keep the material cycle running at a high level by returning bottles, much to the benefit of the environment,” said Schmidt. The recycling system deals with 98.8% of deposit bottles according to the study, most of which customers return via reverse vending machines. On average, 95.7% of all PET bottles are collected separately — the remainder is disposed of in the household waste for conversion into energy.

The beverage industry is chiefly responsible for recycling used PET bottles with just over a third — 34% — of the recycled material used in manufacturing new PET bottles. The proportion of recycled PET used in bottle production increased even with a decrease in the price gap between virgin and recycled PET. In 2015, PET bottles contained an average of 26% recycled materials compared to 24% in 2013.

“We would have hoped for an even higher increase, but we have to appreciate the PET industry’s commitment all the more considering the adverse price development,” said Schmidt.

Increased proportion of recycled PET predicted

Further increases in recycled PET levels are only a matter of time, according to the study. Lower price volatility alone would encourage more use of recycled PET, which has already passed the 55% mark in some disposable PET bottles.

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