I've just reviewed the National Association for PET Container Resources' 2001 “Report on Post Consumer PET Container Recycling Activity.” While reviewing the report I discovered some startling facts. To wit:
The average annual growth rate of total U.S. PET bottles collected from 1995-2001 is 7.6 percent. The average annual growth rate of PET bottles on U.S. shelves is 93.2 percent. With average annual growth in PET bottle production outpacing average annual PET bottle collection by 30 times, it is no wonder that the gross PET recycling rate has dropped from 39.7 percent in 1995 to 22.1 percent in 2001. And, with an average yield loss of around 20 percent of gross weight, the recycled PET utilization rate has fallen commensurately from 31.9 percent in 1995 to 17.5 percent in 2001.
With Coke's share of the recycled PET market computed at 54 million tons, there is still far more supply available than demand. In fact, in the last quarter of 2001, the market for recycled PET evaporated here in the United States and resulted in an annual export of 184 million tons. Although U.S. recycled PET mills imported 44 millions tons of recycled PET, there is still a huge export deficit that could be used by U.S. mills if there were more demand for recycled PET. Even with Pepsi's commitment to achieve 10 percent recycled content in its carbonated soft drink products, not nearly enough demand will be placed on the U.S. market to stimulate more collection of PET bottles.
How can we increase the amount of recycled PET utilized and minimize the 20 percent yield loss? Also, how can we increase the domestic demand for recycled PET?
B. Wayne Turner
City of Winston-Salem, N.C.