Guidelines aimed at boosting the recycling of plastic PET trays are to be drawn up by Plastic Recyclers Europe (EuPR), the organisation has announced.
According to the continental recycling body – whose members make up around 80% of the plastics recycling capacity across Europe – there has been a “significant” increase in the use of PET trays by the packaging industry in recent years, with an estimated 700,000 now put on the market each year.
However, EuPR said poor end-of-life thinking meant this was a “painful situation”, as the current chemical composition and design of PET bottles and trays makes effective recycling difficult when the two types of products are collected together.
“None of the current recycling streams want to have PET trays in their incoming waste,” said the organisation. “PET recyclers cannot handle them because of their different composition (multi-layers, multi-material combinations etc.) when compared with beverage bottles. Mixed plastics recyclers do not want them because of their incompatibility with polyolefins.”
As such, EuPR believes that acting at the design stage of the product and moving towards separate PET trays collections would boost recycling and the PET market.
“These first guidelines will enable the value chain to assess the recyclability of the products which are put on the market and move towards recyclable PET trays. In a second step separate sorting streams will have to be created to enable PET tray recycling.”
It has therefore revealed plans to begin developing recycling guidelines for PET trays and also for non-PET trays made of other plastics which have similar recyclability issues.
EuPR said: “These first guidelines will enable the value chain to assess the recyclability of the products which are put on the market and move towards recyclable PET trays. In a second step separate sorting streams will have to be created to enable PET tray recycling.”
It added: “All trays have an important packaging function but need to adapt to recyclability requirements in order to grow in the years to come.”
UK plastics organisation Recoup estimates that there are around 70,000 tonnes of PET trays collected in the UK each year, with some of this material used in rPET production.
And, while Recoup believes separate collections of PET trays and bottles is preferable, it has questioned EuPR’s claims that the materials cannot be recycled effectively together, previously arguing that the products are often processed together in rPET plants in the UK.