"EPR schemes must urgently upgrade their sorting requirements to safeguard the proven quality of recycled PET from the bottle stream," according to Caspar van den Dungen, vice-president of the Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) trade association. Mr Van den Dungen, who also heads PRE's working group, called on extended producer responsibility schemes to support separate streams for opaque PET bottles and PET trays.
The average yield rate for European PET recyclers has fallen in recent years, slipping from 73 per cent in 2011 to its current level of 68 per cent, according to PRE. The decrease of five percentage points has resulted in substantial additional costs for recyclers.
PRE sees the failure to adapt collection systems to changes in the PET waste stream among the most important reasons for lower yields. Products such as trays and opaque bottles generally wound up in coloured PET bales. In France, these two packaging streams together now accounted for 20 per cent of the content of coloured PET bales in France by weight.
The continuing lightweighting trend and the resulting reduction in bottle wall thicknesses were further problematic developments. The changes affected the moisture content in the bales and to increased loss of the thinner flakes during recycling. The trend was "reaching its limits of circularity", said PRE.