Today, PET can be recycled a finite number of times using mechanical recycling techniques. Research suggests PET can be mechanically recycled up to 2-3 times before it loses the required strength needed. The percentage that is downgraded then needs to be replaced with higher quality mechanically recycled PET that has been through fewer recycling loops or virgin fossil-based PET.
As an industry, we can move towards removing this need for virgin fossil-based PET in the recycling process by replacing it with either ‘like-virgin’ recycled PET or PET from renewable sources.
So where are we now? Today, depolymerisation technologies are being developed that have the potential to create high-quality, ‘like virgin’ PET material by converting recycled PET back to its building blocks, which can then be “re-polymerised.” We are also working on ways to expand availability of renewable content.
The ‘plastic of the Future: 100% recycled or renewable
Because of these advancements, ‘Circular PET’ is possible for the entire industry. We believe the future sources of PET will be a balance of:
- 70-80% recycled PET from mechanical polymer recycling
- 20-30% like-virgin PET from depolymerisation recycling technologies or renewable sources
In the mid-term, therefore, we see virgin PET being replaced by ‘like-virgin’ quality recycled PET from depolymerisation or renewable PET feedstock. Our guiding principle however is that mechanical recycling will remain the dominant source of recycled material for our plastic packaging bags, as it is less carbon-intensive than depolymerisation recycling.