A cross-industry recycling solution aims to roll-out locally produced, high quality recycled PET.
Asahi Beverages and Coca Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) in tandem with Pact Group and Cleanaway are planning to build a PET recycling facility in Australia.
The industrial partnership intends to upcycle around 1 billion bottles a year into rPET bottles and food packaging.
Said materials will be sourced from conventional kerbside recycling and container deposit schemes.
The location of the new rPET recycling facility is not known currently, completion being scheduled at some point in 2023.
Research shows that demand for quality recycled PET has surged.
In 2015, demand for rPET was at 31%, with this figure expected to surge to 43% by 2022. Currently, the food packaging industry receives most of recycled PET, followed by the bottle packaging and textile fibre sector.
Recycling PET is fraught with risks-the process, when not facilitated by high quality technology, may lead to the promulgation of contaminants such as limonene or benzene particles in rPET.
In this sense, this joint venture project makes sense as the different partners serve to prop each other up according to their individual expertise. Cleanaway will be responsible for the appropriate sourcing and collection of plastic materials, Pact responsible in the provision of technical know-how and CCEP, Asahi and Pact being responsible for buying the produced rPET.
With landfill bans and plastic taxes on the horizon across Europe, the recovery of plastic and the building of a secondary plastic raw materials market grows more important.
Economic considerations also play their part in the current scheme. This year, Coca Cola spent €15 million to secure quality, food grade rPET. (Recycled PET is usually more expensive than virgin PET.) The global beverage brand has not made a public commitment to producing its one-way deposit bottles out of 100% rPET as of yet due to its inability of sourcing sufficient materials. As such, Coca Cola has been investing in innovative recycling technologies whilst engaging in long-term supply agreements with recycling partners.
Though expanded processing capacity as exemplified by this collaborative project is important, ultimately, the establishment of a circular economy for PET depends on consumer access to and participation in local recycling programmes.
As recycling does not follow the usual supply/demand model, financial incentives outside of bottle deposit schemes having proven lacklustre in stimulating further participation, the onus is on consumer, who are tasked sort and dispose of PET correctly to ensure a steady stream of material that can actually be recycled.