WRAP report shows poor quality PET is limiting its use in food grade applications


More PET content would be used in food grade plastic packaging if the quality of material for recycling was better, according to a new WRAP report.

Undertaken by Nextek on behalf of WRAP, the report suggested that discolouration and colour variability of rPET is the primary quality issue affecting the adoption of more rPET into packaging.


It recommended as a result, that there needs to be improved sorting of plastics to remove materials such as PVC, aluminium cans, plastic bags, paper and dirt in order to provide a cleaner rPET material.

Brands, retailers and packaging converters are also encouraged to design bottles to assist recycling and reduce contamination.

It also called on food grade rPET reprocessors to screen for contamination at less than 4mm, although it recognised that around 10 per cent of PET flake would be lost from this process. The report said a new technology would need to be developed to allow this screening, while also reducing the loss of PET flake.

The report said: “Through engagement with users of rPET in plastic packaging, WRAP has identified that cases of poor rPET quality are limiting the amount of rPET that can be used in new food packaging.

“Often smaller ratios of rPET are being used than the industry would like (around 20-30 per cent in bottles) whereas addition rates of 50 per cent would be possible if quality was acceptable.

“For thermoformed products (e.g trays) additional rates are typically up to 50 per cent, however these could also be at levels of up to 75-100 per cent if resin quality was improved.

“Improvements to the quality of this material would therefore enable more of it to be used in new food packaging to reduce its environmental impact further (for example the use of one tonne of rPET in new drinks bottles saves around 1.5 tonnes of CO2). This would also generate economic benefits by stimulating further demand for rPET which in turn would help to develop more recycling infrastructure in the UK for PET reprocessing.”

Click here to see the full report