According to a new study by the ICIS (Independent Chemical Information Service), the European plastics recycling industry is set to miss a 2025 target for the recycling of PET bottles.
The ICIS states that this is primarily due to a low growth rate in collection volumes.
Looking at supply chain data, covering collection, recycling and end-of-use PET, the study found that PET bottle collection in western Europe had increased from 58% in 2016 to 63% in 2018. This is expected to further increase to 65% in 2019.
Under the recently-adopted EU Single-Use Plastics (SUP) directive, recovery rates are required to reach 77% by 2025 and 90% by 2029.
But while collection rates are projected to grow by less than 4% per year through 2020, ICIS estimates that the volume of collected material will need to increase by 7% per annum if the 2029 percentage target is to be achieved.
Speaking about the study results, Helen McGeough, ICIS senior analyst, said: “Despite the boost in demand for rPET, collection failed to match those growth rates, reaching 2.1m tonnes in 2018 - just 2.4% growth on 2017 volumes. Tight supply saw PET bale prices rise 20% in 2018, compounded by the growth in reclamation capacity during the year that expanded to meet the downstream demand for rPET products.”
In addition, the study found that deposit return schemes (DRS) are more effective at driving PET bottles into the circular economy than basic market pricing for recycled materials.
The top seven highest collection rates for PET bottles in 2018 were in countries where DRS programmes are in place.
The study follows the adoption by the SUP directive. The directive is supported by a series of major PET bottle producers which have published their own, related pledges to help achieve the recycling targets.
According to the statement from ICIS, regulation remains the most effective method for driving investment into recycling, but issues surrounding who within the supply chain will pay for that recycling have yet to be solved.