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Precarious Situation in PET Recycling

Virgin materials, which have become very cheap in Europe since the logistics chains were reorganized after the Corona crisis in the second half of 2022, are displacing PET recyclates.

"The high inflation also leads to consumer restraint, and as a result, demand from packaging manufacturers is suffering. As a consequence, recycling companies are currently under massive pressure," explains Dr. Dirk Textor, Chairman of the bvse Specialist Association for Plastic Recycling, describing the current situation.

A recent example of the tense situation is the closure of Veolia's PET recycling site in Rostock. Sales of flakes and regranulates are stalling – the long-term, economically viable operation of its PET recycling plant is no longer possible for Veolia. Efforts to secure sales of recycled PET in collaboration with the beverage industry and/or trade were unsuccessful, according to the rationale.

"We see the entire PET recycling industry in a precarious position because fillers and marketers of PET packaging are not fulfilling their product responsibility. A medium-term improvement of the situation is not in sight. PET processors are relying on new plastics and delisting recyclates," criticizes Textor.

This behavior of PET processors is "very surprising" in the opinion of the bvse Specialist Association for Plastic Recycling because recycled PET is the only plastic that can be used in packaging with direct food contact. The current market behavior of PET processors, who are exclusively relying on new plastics, is considered short-sighted and highly problematic by the bvse. It should not be assumed that a decommissioned plant can be restarted within a short period. Plants must be operated continuously to produce the required quantities in suitable qualities. In the worst case, the facility may even disappear completely from the market.

"And it will become very tight when the high requirements of the European plastics strategy have to be implemented shortly. Not least, very ambitious recyclate quotas will be defined in the revision of the European packaging regulation. That's why there will also be a distribution battle for recycled PET in Europe," says Textor.

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