New US PET Recycling Coalition

The Recycling Partnership, a US force for improving recycling, announced the launch of its PET Recycling Coalition, an initiative informed by industry knowledge and expertise to improve PET circularity. Its work will focus on addressing four key opportunities to increase recycling of this valuable material: 

  • Increasing the capture of PET bottles 
  • Broadening the acceptance of PET trays, cups, and clamshells in community recycling collection programs 
  • Unlocking new supplies of recycled PET (rPET) for packaging manufacturers 
  • Strengthening recycling systems for pigmented and opaque PET  

While eliminating unnecessary usage is an important component of circularity, increased PET recycling is another critical step in advancing circularity, states the Coalition. This along with company commitments and recycled content mandates in proposed U.S. legislation is leading to skyrocketing demand for recycled PET but supply is currently limited. Most Americans with recycling access are able to recycle PET bottles; however, just 54% can recycle other types of PET packaging like plastic egg cartons and fruit containers. Furthermore, the recycling rate for PET bottles was only 26.6% in 2021. While most PET never makes it into the recycling bin due to insufficient access and participation, as much as 17% of bottles that are recovered are lost at Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) due to sortation challenges. By supporting solutions identified by the PET Recycling Coalition, there is a great opportunity to increase recovery and reduce plastic waste and help make progress toward packaging circularity goals. 

The PET Recycling Coalition will make grants to recycling facilities for sorting equipment and related capital needs. These upgrades will improve PET bottle capture, deliver more rPET for use back into bottles and thermoforms, increase the acceptance of non-bottle rigid items in community recycling programs, and strengthen recycling opportunities for pigmented and opaque PET. Through grants, technical assistance, and knowledge sharing, the Coalition envisions a thriving PET recycling system that captures significantly more material, enabling more circular PET packaging with increased amounts of recycled content.  

“The Recycling Partnership is dedicated to building a stronger U.S. recycling system, including material-focused efforts such as the PET Recycling Coalition. The success of these material-specific coalitions shows us that when we take a systems approach, we’re able to not only lift up that targeted material but all the other recyclables in the bin as well,” said Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership.

The PET Recycling Coalition is part of The Recycling Partnership’s Pathway to Circularity Initiative and aims to advance the circularity of all packaging. The Coalition is supported by and open to members representing all segments of the material’s value chain, including founding steering committee members Eastman, Indorama Ventures, Procter & Gamble, and the Walmart Foundation

“Eastman is deploying technology that transforms plastic ‘waste’ into valuable feedstock. And while making waste valuable improves the economics of recycling, we know technology alone cannot solve this crisis. Our country needs substantial innovation and investment in its recycling ecosystem,” said Scott Ballard, Eastman Plastics Division President. “We are excited to partner with leaders across the value chain to catalyze the change that will get all forms of PET, not just clear bottles, into our recycle stream. Together, we can create a circular economy, leave fossil feeds in the ground, and do it with a lower carbon footprint.” 

Additional founding members include The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, and Niagara Bottling. The Coalition set an initial funding target of $25 million over five years and is seeking additional supporters.  

The PET Recycling Coalition is aided by an advisory committee of industry leaders, including the American Beverage Association, Association of Plastic Recyclers, Closed Loop Partners, Foodservice Packaging Institute, National Association for PET Container Resources, and RRS. In addition to serving on the advisory committee, RRS will serve as the Coalition’s technical partner and inform the Coalition’s strategy with supporting research.  

Visit The PET Recycling Coalition