Food packaging using rPET limited by feedstock's supply, quality, La Seda de Barcelona's APPE says; only 22% of Europe's rPET used in rigid packaging; APPE calls for adoption of high-quality standards

LOS ANGELES , November 17, 2011 () – The amount of recycled polyethylene terephthalate used in food packaging is limited by the availability and quality of the feedstock, according to La Seda de Barcelona's division Artenius PET Packaging Europe, Packaging News reported on Nov. 16.

Collection of suitable rPET is not keeping pace with the increase in Europe’s reclamation capacity, Frédéric Blanchard, plant director of APPE’s recycling operation in Beaune, France, said.

This caused prices for post-consumer rPET bales to reach record highs, although they have since come down from those unsustainable levels, Blanchard said during a presentation at the PETnology Europe 2011 conference in Nuremberg, Germany, Packaging News reported.

Long-term rPET prices are expected to rebound and track virgin PET prices, Blanchard said, noting that rPET is expected to be less expensive than virgin resin despite rPET’s “complexities and their cost implications.”

APPE, a PET recycler and packaging manufacturer with seven factories in Europe and North Africa, spent €10 million (US$13.5 million) at its Veaune, France, plant to raise capacity by 40% to 35,000 tonnes. Additional investment there is being considered, but limited availability of post-consumer PET is a concern, according to the company, Packaging News reported.

In Europe, just 22% of the domestic rPET is reused to produce PET packaging that can be recycled again and again, with the remaining 78% used in applications that are not recycled, such as for sheeting, fibers and strapping.

The biggest challenge for the industry is educating brandowners on how difficult it is to maintain necessary quality controls when using rPET to manufacture new packaging, according to APPE, Packaging News reported.

To assure that rPET is approved for food-contact packaging, high-quality standards need to be adopted by the industry, APPE said. The company has already implemented its own specifications for rPET production, although other food-grade rPET manufacturers have not, APPE said.

The potential for closed-loop, bottle-to-bottle rPET will be limited by the feedstock’s availability until the collect systems meet stringent requirements, and this needs to be supported with increased regulation, Blanchard said, Packaging News reported.

The primary source of this article is Packaging News, London, England, on Nov. 16, 2011.

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