Indorama is a powerhouse in the PET business, as Prabhushankar said one in every five PET bottles used around the world is made from Indorama resin. From that position, the company sees the push from consumers, governments and brands to dramatically increase PET recycling.
PET is the most widely recycled plastic in the United States, but still less than 30 percent of the material finds reuse. So even with the company's increases in recycled PET, Prabhushankar said there is more work to be done within the company and within the entire industry.
"There are three things that are absolutely necessary to achieve this. One is infrastructure, second is government regulations and the third is human behavior," Prabhushankar said.
"The social, political and the commercial pressures are all driving sustainability," he said. "Consumers are demanding a sustainable package. And governments are taking actions" to improve collection rates. "And, finally, the commercial pull from our customers, the brand owners and the converters, they all have pledged very high recycled content for both sustainability and for commercial advantage."
Education is a key aspect of increasing PET recycling numbers, Prabhushankar said, and Indorama has created a program in Thailand to drive that point home. The effort has proven to be successful with an economic benefit of 5.5 times the investment made in the program, he said. Based on those numbers, Indorama is looking to expand the program elsewhere.
While the company works on expanding its own recycling capacity, securing supply is an important aspect of keeping those facilities operating. Part of the company's approach is partnering with waste management companies to expand their collection areas to drive more material to the recycler.
Indorama also will invest in collection infrastructure as needed to allow collectors and aggregators to capture more material.
Much has changed with the PET bottle in the last 30 years, and Prabhushankar pointed to the 2-liter carbonated soft drink bottle as an example. Those early containers had aluminum caps, paper labels and a base cup glued to the bottom.
"Today, you can see the same 2-liter bottle has evolved a lot. It's being designed for recycle. It's already sustainable," he said.
Indorama wants to have capacity to recycle 50 billion PET bottles by 2025, and in the company's latest sustainability report issued late last year, the firm said it recycled 10.1 billion bottles in 2020. As PET recycling has become more of a focus, the company said it has recycled a total of 58 billion bottles from 2011 to 2020.