The PET Recycling Coalition (Coalition), which launched in June 2022 to improve the circularity of PET packaging in the U.S., announced five new grants to bolster the efficiency and effectiveness of PET recycling at materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and PET reclaimers. This new round of grants, which follows the Coalition’s first set of grants announced in January 2023, catalyzes substantial growth in multiple areas of PET recycling, with a focus on increasing the capture of PET bottles and containers, unlocking new supplies of recycled PET (rPET), and strengthening recycling systems for PET thermoforms and pigmented and opaque PET.
Collectively, the five new grants awarded are projected to increase PET capture by 5.1 million pounds per year, strengthen thermoform access for over 350,000 households, and increase annual reclamation capacity for 31.9 million pounds of bottles, 31.6 million pounds of thermoforms, and 2.6 million pounds of pigmented/opaque PET.
“We’re fortunate and grateful to work with our committed group of Coalition members and our growing circle of partners in the PET recycling community,” said Adam Gendell, Director of Materials Advancement at The Recycling Partnership. “We’re encouraged by the quantity and quality of the opportunities we’ve found to grow PET recycling and we will continue to accelerate and scale the solutions that are needed.”
Coalition grantmaking to MRFs focuses on enabling an overall increase in the amount of PET captured and facilitating the capture of a broader variety of PET containers. The two MRFs receiving grants from this latest round, Balcones Resources in San Antonio, TX and Republic Services in Conover, NC, are both using their grant awards to catalyze investments in new optical sorters that will be able to handle larger volumes and varieties of PET bottles and thermoforms.
Republic Services recognized the opportunity to capture more PET by replacing their existing optical sorter, projecting that their new optical sorter will capture an additional 300,000 pounds per year of PET bottles and thermoforms.
Balcones Resources is investing in two new optical sorters capable of detecting and sorting PET bottles and PET thermoforms in separate streams, improving their ability to deliver high-quality PET bales to specialized end markets. These optical sorters will be installed in a new MRF built to serve upwards of 500 thousand households in San Antonio , and Balcones Resources estimates that the 12 million pounds per year of PET they expect to capture will constitute a 15% increase compared to currently available infrastructure.
“This grant allows us to be more progressive and forward-looking in our handling of PET,” said Joaquin Mariel, Chief Commercial Officer of Balcones Resources. “The Coalition’s support helps us contribute a substantial amount of PET to the circular economy and has enabled the installation of technology that will open Balcones up to sorting dedicated streams of PET bottles and thermoforms.”
To complement improvements at MRFs and ensure concerted growth in PET recycling, the Coalition issues grants to PET reclaimers to stimulate additional increases in PET capture and enable stronger reclamation of PET thermoforms and pigmented/opaque PET. Three PET reclaimers received Coalition grant awards from this latest round, each of which are executing unique and meaningful projects that will add robustness to the PET recycling landscape.
Direct Pack Recycling received a grant to support their construction of a new reclamation facility in Rockingham, NC that is specially designed to recycle higher volumes of PET thermoforms and will strengthen the viability of PET thermoform collection and sortation throughout the surrounding region. Direct Pack Recycling is also distinguished in its treatment of pigmented/opaque PET, capturing and reclaiming that material for use in the manufacture of new colored PET trays by its sister company Direct Pack Inc.
Strengthening PET thermoform recycling in the Pacific Northwest, Merlin Plastics received a grant to catalyze its addition of a new processing line at their Delta, BC facility that will be designed exclusively for thermoforms. This new line will allow PET bottles and thermoforms to be split into dedicated streams at the facility, reclaimed separately with optimized processes on-site, and handled according to customer needs and requests related to thermoform-derived rPET.
In the Midwest, a grant was awarded to Placon to catalyze their investment of new front-end sorting equipment that will enable them to capture around 10% more PET from incoming MRF bales, allowing their Madison, WI facility to source more material from its regional MRFs and facilitating the inclusion of PET thermoforms in those MRF bales for reclamation alongside PET bottles.
The Coalition acknowledges the abundance of further opportunities to enhance the circularity of PET and welcomes deeper engagement and investment with the PET recycling community. Companies interested in improving PET recycling in the U.S. should consider becoming a Coalition member and an active participant in elevating solutions. To learn more about the Coalition, its members, and how to get involved in supporting its goals, visit recyclingpartnership.org/pet-recycling-coalition.