Despite some serious concerns about the potential negative impact on recycling streams, several bottle makers are going forward with plans to market PET bottles with oxo-degradable or biodegradable additives that they say will break down and degrade in landfills.
The question is, when does that degradation process start, what triggers it and how does it affect the recycling and the next-life product? said Dennis Sabourin, executive director of the National Association for PET Container Resources in Sonoma, Calif.
Their claims that their products won't contaminate the recycling stream are troublesome, said Steve Alexander, director of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers in Washington. I'm not sure they have done adequate testing.
We are concerned that this is going to be another contaminant to the recycling stream, Alexander said. A lot of the applications of recycled PET resins go into long-term durable assets, such as carpeting and strapping.
Degradable additives that weaken products or shorten the useful life of durable plastics would have a strong negative impact on post-consumer plastics recycling, he said.
APR does not have the same concerns about additives used to make polyethylene bags biodegradable, because those manufacturers have supplied data to the industry to review. However, APR said it has not been provided with data to verify claims regarding the additives in PET bottles.
According to APR, there are three firms supplying PET additives and five companies marketing the bottles, including Planet Green Bottle Corp. of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Phoenix-based Enso Bottles LLC.
We don't have any bottles on the retail shelves today, but we plan to ship at the end of the month, said Enso founder Danny Clark.
Resilux America LLC in Pendergrass, Ga., which makes PET containers and preforms, is the firm's manufacturing partner. Los Angeles-based Aquamantra expects the Aquamantra Enso bottles for its natural spring water line to hit store shelves next month. Enso uses the EcoPure biodegradable additive made by Bio-Tec Environmental LLC in Albuquerque.
Planet Green has a prototype bottle that is not commercially available yet. Its bottles will use Reverte additive from Wells Plastic Ltd. in Stone, England.
Enso said EcoPure is designed to degrade the PET bottle within one to five years in a landfill. Planet Green said its additive will break down PET over 10-20 years. Both firms claim the additives will not adversely affect the recycling stream or the shelf life of products made from recycled resins. Neither firm provided test data to Plastics News.
All these companies should be making public the data that shows that the additives can, in fact, be made into new bottles or strapping or carpet and that the carpet will serve its useful life of 25 years, said APR technical director Dave Cornell. But they haven't. ... If I were a retailer, I would tell them to show me the data.
The Wells people said that they plan to come forward with a testing program, but they are out there making claims. I think they have the order backwards.
Clark said Enso is working with a couple of major recyclers to conduct tests, but did not name them. We want to work with recyclers and APR. Part of this is educating recyclers on the science and the technology, he said.
Planet Green sales and marketing director Al Poteat responded similarly: I don't blame the recyclers for getting nervous because they don't want the next-use item to fall apart. ... But there are several protocols we need to establish before testing and it will take anywhere from six to 12 months.
Even if the additives work, Cornell questions their benefit.
It won't provide any help with regard to landfill space, and it doesn't seem to be the answer for litter. ... And the downside is that it will take potential material out of the recycling stream. Inherently, you want to save that molecule, not squander it, he said.
Planet Green and Enso say that since 75 percent of PET bottles end up in landfills, they want to provide an alternative to recycling.