European soft drinks industry wants their PET bottles back for closed loop recycling

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Trade associations representing the European soft drinks industry have said they want their PET bottles back so they can be closed loop recycled.

In a joint article for Politico Europe, the European Fruit Juice Association, Natural Mineral Waters Europe and UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe have said that “increased use of recycled content by one sector should not be at the expense of breaking another sector’s closed loop”.

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For PET bottles, they wrote that an increasing number of non-food industries are recycling the bottles into new products such as clothes, backpacks, carpets, toys and more. But at the end of their life, these are thrown away unlike bottles, which are recycled.

They added: “While the sustainability efforts of other non-food industries are laudable, their use of recycled PET bottles does not automatically make their products more circular and leads to a significant shortage of food-grade recycled plastic for the non-alcoholic beverage industry.

“This in turn has created a lot of uncertainty for our industry despite our steady investments in shifting to circular packaging and choosing highly-recyclable materials like PET. Moreover, granting unrestricted and unconditional access to our recyclable high-quality content to other sectors does not incentivise them to further invest in recycling of their own materials, therefore hurting the very objectives of the EU circular ambitions.”

As a result, they would like a legal framework that guarantees manufacturers fair and necessary access to their own recycled packaging material, especially as they are financing the collection of this across Europe.

They suggest this should also apply to any other industry which is obliged to use recycled plastics in a closed loop.

This would mean that closed loop plastics manufacturers would have a right of first refusal mechanism within the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

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