Brands bite the bullet on recycled plastic price

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

The EU’s single-use plastics directive requires all PET bottles to contain at least 25% rPET by 2025
The EU’s single-use plastics directive requires all PET bottles to contain at least 25% rPET by 2025

Related tags: Packaging & labelling, Supply chain

Regulatory and consumer pressure is likely to mean brand owners and retailers remaining committed to using recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) in their bottles, despite being more expensive than virgin polymer.

A plastics recycling report, published by market intelligence company S&P Global Platts, noted how the rPET flake market had usually seen a consistent price discount compared with virgin PET. This summer, however, virgin prices sank – first to parity with, and now significantly below – recyclate prices.

While converters of non-food-contact rPET flake, in applications such as film, sheet and fibre, might be tempted to move to cheaper virgin polymer, this would be harder for some brand-owners.

“Certain purchasers of rPET have made commitments they need to stick to,”​ Ben Brooks, associate editor of the report, told Food Manufacture​.

Food-grade in limited supply

“There is limited supply of this food-grade quality of recyclate. Many want to ensure they still have access to that supply of good-quality rPET in future.”

Switching back to virgin polymer might have been an acceptable strategy in the past “but sustainability and demonstrating that you’re supporting the environment have become big selling points with consumers,”​ he said.

“We’re not really expecting UK demand for rPET to drop, since it’s led by regulation, and it seems like, every month, another company announces a new initiative,”​ Brooks added.

Christian Crépet, executive director of PET value-chain organisation Petcore Europe, quoted in the report, said demand from brand owners meant higher-value, more highly-processed food-grade rPET pellet was also inflating flake prices. 

The EU’s single-use plastics directive requires all PET bottles to contain at least 25% rPET by 2025.

“There’s not enough infrastructure for the 2025 deadline, certainly not in the UK, and this will have a significant impact on prices up to that date,”​ Crépet predicted.

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