German study reports success in PET bottle recycling in 2015

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:

Bottle deposits have ensured consistently high recycling rates for PET bottles in Germany according to a new 2015 study on the usage and recycling rates of PET beverage bottles in Germany.

According to Forum PET within IK Kunststoffverpackungen plastic packaging that commissioned the study, PET bottles are recycled at a total of about 93.5%, while one-way deposit PET bottles have reached a whole 97.9%.

The industry is also reported to be continuing its aim of supplying more recycled PET into the materials cycle, with the average share of recycled PET in bottle production increasing compared to 2013 despite the adverse price development in recycled compared to virgin PET. The recycling process also largely takes place in Germany.

“PET bottles take the lion’s share in recycling rates compared to other forms of packaging,” said Dr Isabell Schmidt, director of the Forum PET. "In particular, one-way deposit PET bottles increased slightly on what was already a very high recycling rate of 97.2% as calculated in the first edition of the 2013 study, reaching a rate of 97.9% in 2015."

High return rate keeps materials cycle going
Forum PET explains this development is due to deposits placed on disposable bottles. “Consumers keep the material cycle running at a high level by returning bottles, much to the benefit of the environment,” added Schmidt. "The recycling system deals with 98.8% of deposit bottles according to the study, most of which customers return via reverse vending machines. With this in mind, Forum PET endorses the continuance with the deposit system. On average, 95.7% of all PET bottles are collected separately – the remainder is disposed of in the household waste for conversion into energy."

The beverage industry is reported to be chiefly responsible for recycling used PET bottles with just over a third – 34% – of the recycled material used in manufacturing new PET bottles. The proportion of recycled PET used is said to have increased in bottle production even with the price gap between virgin and recycled PET decreasing from the 2013 figure of 46%. The year 2015 saw PET bottles containing an average of 26% recycled materials compared to 24% in 2013. “We would have hoped for an even higher increase, but we have to appreciate the PET industry’s commitment all the more considering the adverse price development,” commented Schmidt. “The industry is committed to sustainability.”

Increased proportion of recycled PET predicted

Further increases in recycled PET levels within the recycling cycle is only a matter of time according to the study, with an increase in PET recycling capacity already on the horizon. Lower price volatility alone would encourage more use of recycled PET, which has already passed the 55% mark by a significant margin in some disposable PET bottles.

Schmidt again: "Contrary to common assumptions against PET, the PET material cycle mainly takes place in Germany, as 2015 saw 80% of used PET recycled domestically. Quantities exported were mainly used in neighbouring countries, and the numbers are falling. Recycling hardly plays a role in the Far East."

This study included figures for PET beverage bottles except milk and dairy, and covered the entire PET bottle value chain from production and consumption to collection, return, export and recycling, summarising PET usage in beverage packaging in Germany in a closed materials cycle in absolute quantities. The study relied on bottle collection in Germany as well as interviews in the PET processing industry. The study was commissioned by Forum PET and conducted by the GVM packaging market research association.

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