The recycling rate for PET bottles dropped last year - a casualty of the success of the PET bottle industry. Although U.S. consumers recycled more PET bottles in 1995 than ever before, their efforts represented a smaller portion of the total number of bottles made, according to a survey conducted for the National Associa-tion for Plastic Container Recovery.
The study, done independently by Robert Bennett, associate dean for the College of Engineer-ing of the University of Toledo in Ohio, reported 622 million pounds of PET bottles were recycled in 1995, about 10 percent, or 55 million pounds more than in 1994. However, the study also showed that the 1995 rate of recycling the bottles declined to 32 percent from 34 percent in 1994. (Plastics News reported March 18 that the 1995 rate was likely to decline, but the actual figures were not available at that time.)
Bennett attributed the rate decline to the increase worldwide in the production and availability of single-serve PET bottles, such as 16-ounce and 20-ounce soft drink containers.
``Since this is the first time since we've done the survey that the recycling rate has actually dropped, we will have to take some time to consider the whole picture,'' said Quinn Davidson, NAPCOR spokeswoman. ``We have figures all the way back to 1989, and while the volume of use has dropped before, the rate has always increased.''
In a prepared statement on the survey results, Luke B. Schmidt, president of Charlotte, N.C.-based NAPCOR, noted that the portable convenience of the single-serve containers makes it possible for consumers to carry them with them and to be used away from their homes, which removes them from normal curbside collection programs.
Industry analysts have speculated that use of PET for drink containers would continue to grow at double-digit rates through the end of the century, and that single-serve bottle sizes would grow in use both in the huge North American market, and emerging markets for these products such as Latin America, Europe and the Far East.
PET bottles are picked up by most of the nearly 6,000 curbside collection programs in North America, and by bottle deposit programs in 10 U.S. states. PET is the most-recycled form of plastic.
Major markets for recycled PET including textiles and carpets. Other markets including clothing and shoes, thermoformed and blow molded packaging, and polyester strapping. NAPCOR membership includes PET bottle makers and resin suppliers.