Recycling is a big public policy and industry focus, obviously. Post-consumer content is also important for brand owners.
But it doesn't always make fiscal sense, so rather than a steady uptick in investments for more capacity with rewarding paybacks, you sometimes end up with mixed messaging.
Consider a couple of stories from our sister paper Sustainable Plastics last week. In Rostock, Germany, Veolia Umweltservice GmbH is closing a plant that can recycle more than 1 billion PET bottles per year, producing 32,000 metric tonnes of food-grade material.
The decision was the result of the market's "unwillingness to create a sustainable closed loop for PET beverage bottles," the company said. It is retaining operations in Hamburg, Germany, as well as sites in Switzerland, Norway and Sweden.
Meanwhile, PET Baltija, one of the largest PET recyclers in northern Europe and part of Eco Baltia, announced plans for a 35 million euro ($37.8 million) PET recycling plant in Olaine, Latvia, it says will be the among the largest and modern in Europe.
PET Baltija says the investment will make it a leading recycler in all of Europe.
Obviously, efficiency has something to do with the decisions as does the cost of operating in Germany vs. Latvia. The new plant in Latvia will have all new equipment, tap into renewable energy and be made with the most sustainable construction systems, the company says. It is also closing an older plant in Olaine. Veolia has been operating for 20 years.
But the current state of the recycling business is playing a big part. Veolia says without the fiscal security provided by long-term purchasing commitments, it's not economically viable to keep the plant open.