New Study Identifies Solutions to Increase PET Recycling

November 28, 2017, Ann Arbor, Mich. – Sustainability and recycling consultancy Resource Recycling Systems, Inc. (RRS) announced the release of Improving the rPET Stream – a study funded by Closed Loop Partners that researched recycling system interventions to reduce the cost of recycling post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.

If the suite of interventions identified in the report were implemented nationally, the current system could increase the recycling rate of PET by 6% and close the loop on an additional 80 million pounds of PET bottles each year — without putting a single new cart on the street.

“The rPET study demonstrates that designing for recycling and investing in MRFs to improve quality will pay off,” says RRS CEO Jim Frey.  “These interventions will improve the quality and quantity of PET recycled and benefit the entire supply chain.”

RRS researched and compiled 12 years of data on US pricing trends and cost structures for both virgin and recycled PET (rPET). This included sorting, processing, contamination levels, and yield loss. Additionally, RRS evaluated multiple interventions that could improve the cost structure for rPET with implementation by materials recovery facilities (MRFs), reclaimers, reprocessors, and end users.

“We believe there are investable opportunities that benefit municipalities, the PET recycling industry, and end users by making rPET a more desirable material that competes with virgin,” stated Ron Gonen, Closed Loop Partners managing partner.

Key findings from Improving the rPET Stream study include:

  • The cost structures for producing rPET and virgin PET are very different; rPET is a highlight distributed, mechanical process, involving policy-driven supply and market-based demand.
  • Recommended Interventions:
    • Capital investments in new technologies at MRFs and reprocessors.
    • Improving packaging design-for-recyclability.
    • Creating more reliable agreements among parties.
  • If interventions are implemented together, MRFs, reprocessors, and end users could lower costs by 10%, improve yield by 21%, and create other system benefits.
  • If implemented at scale, the national recycling rate of PET could increase by 6%.
  • Value creation opportunities exist throughout the supply chain.
  • Instructive for considering solutions for polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE).

The full report is available on Closed Loop Partners’ website.