Working to improve the circularity of PET packaging through a stronger and more robust recycling system.
The PET Recycling Coalition convenes a robust group of stakeholders driving improvements that transform the polyethylene terephthalate – PET plastic (plastic #1) – recycling landscape. The growing Coalition is part of The Partnership’s Pathway to Circularity, an initiative creating scalable solutions to packaging and system challenges and accelerating the shift to a circular economy that uses fewer finite resources. Together, we can be part of the solution to unlock the environmental and economic benefits of PET recycling through research, data, and collaboration.
Solving for the Current Challenge
PET packaging is generally considered highly recyclable, but the U.S. recycling system needs improvement to fully unlock circularity. According to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR)’s 2020 PET Recycling Report, the most recognized type of PET packaging – PET plastic bottles – are currently recycled at a rate of about 27%, which is below the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s 30% threshold for recyclability. Other types of PET packaging like plastic egg cartons, fruit containers, clamshells, trays, and tubs are recycled at a significantly lower rate – 9%. We can – and should – do better.
Going further, the bottles that do end up in recycling bins may sometimes be lost at Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) due to sortation challenges. In addition to these challenges, recycling processes for pigmented and opaque PET packaging have not been stable and need to be strengthened.
The Recycling Partnership is leading an initiative informed by industry knowledge and expertise to improve PET circularity and transform the recycling system by:
- Increasing PET capture rates by upgrading the efficiency of the recycling system
- Optimizing the flow of recycled PET by technology and infrastructure updates at sortation facilities and PET reclaimers
- Bolstering PET recycling through expanded access and effective messaging in local recycling programs
Goal and Approach
The PET Recycling Coalition looks to drive these advancements through enhanced infrastructure and action around PET recycling. The Coalition will make grants that aim to improve recycling facility sorting technology and practices to better position the recycling system for PET.
The Coalition seeks funding partners interested in embarking on a research-focused and data-driven journey to unlock the environmental and economic benefits of PET recycling. Together, we can be part of the solution.
Increase Capture by 250M lbs/year by 2027
- Boost the PET bottle recycling rate over 30%
- Significantly reduce yield loss at reclaimers and unlock new supply of rPET
Achieve >60% access for PET thermoforms by 2025
- Advance thermoform-to-thermoform recycling and other opportunities for separated recycling
- Double the PET thermoform recycling rate by 2027 (from 2022 baseline)
Create resilient recycling in proactive and at scale for pigmented/opaque PET by 2025
- Strengthen robust end markets with pronounced environmental and economic benefits
- Earn an improved designation from industry-accepted recyclability assessment programs