To overcome recycling test barriers that discourage improvements in PET resin, the PET Resin Association has developed a recyclability assessment model that it said is a more “realistic and effective method for assessing recyclability” of various types of PET resin than the guidelines from the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers.
The PETRA model integrates the need for continued innovation with stringent resin testing and monitoring, said Ralph Vasami, executive director of PETRA, which represents North American producers of PET resin.
The group announced its Recyclability and Innovation Model and posted it online Oct. 16. The document provides voluntary criteria for testing, evaluating and ensuring the recyclability of newly developed PET resins that are used in manufacturing PET bottles and containers.
New York-based PETRA said it issued the model when “it became apparent” — three years after discussions between the two organizations began in 2009 — “that APR was unwilling to change its protocol to allow for the introduction of resin variations anticipated for relatively low market presence, even if offset by additional recyclability safeguards.”
The PETRA model allows for testing variations at levels of 2 percent and 10 percent, which PETRA said encompasses the vast majority of today's new PET resin variants.
Current recyclability guidelines in the PET Bottle Critical Guidance document from the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers call for resin testing at concentrations of either 25 percent or 50 percent. The European PET Bottle Platform PET Recycling Test Protocol allows for testing at lower concentrations than APR.
“APR requires resin variants and innovations typically having a low market presence to meet the same requirements of a resin accounting for 25 percent or 50 percent of total North American PET production,” said PETRA.
Those requirements discourage innovation, make product differentiation difficult and preclude the introduction of resin improvements, PETRA said.
“In recent years, the APR's focus on defining recyclability in terms of meeting the capabilities of the least-sophisticated recycling operations has been increasingly at odds with advances in resin science and resulting innovations.”
PETRA's model focuses on real-market resin performance and the evaluation needs of producers, brand owners and recyclers, said Vasami.
In addition to special-use resins, PETRA's model does include criteria for testing at those more robust levels of 25 percent and 50 percent.
In general, PETRA said its model is designed to combine the most progressive elements of the existing European PET Bottle Platform recyclability guidelines and the APR recycling guidelines for North America — without sacrificing rigorous testing benchmarks or compromising innovation.
PETRA stressed that under its model all innovations will be tested to the same performance criteria and given either a pass or fail mark.
According to PETRA, its model includes:
* A rigorous test protocol to measure recyclability in terms of a resin's physical and chemical performance characteristics.
* A dispersion assessment, based on the test protocol results, that calculates the volume of a resin type that can safely be placed in the marketplace without compromising the overall recyclability of PET.
* The provision of control resins that reflect the current North American supply of water-grade and carbonated soft drink-grade PET resins, for use with the test protocol.
* Annual test monitoring — once the model is in prevalent use — of the combined virgin PET stream to identify and quantify any changes in the virgin resin stream that might adversely impact the recyclability of PET.
Under the program, PETRA will provide industry-representative control resins to organizations that use the model for testing. Once the model is widely used, PETRA said it will be committed to funding annual third-party testing and monitoring of the PET resin stream.