On May 9, 2016 the European polyethylene terephthalate (PET) industry association’s (Petcore Europe) Thermoforms Working Group published an interim report on the recycling of thermoforms within the PET value chain. “Recycling of PET thermoforms is the final stage for closing the loop of PET recycling, we have to find solutions for increasing the recycling rates, especially in the context of the new Circular Economy Package and its ambitious plastics recycling targets proposals,” stated Wim Hoenderdaal, co-chairman of Petcore Europe’s Thermoforms Working Group. On average, a PET thermoform contains over 50% of recycled PET (rPET), the report states. EU-wide collection and sorting of post-consumer PET packaging must be improved, e.g. by separating PET multilayer from monolayer trays, and PET trays from PET bottles. Several projects are underway investigating what quality and percentage of PET thermoforms can be included in the PET bales without affecting the quality of the rPET. Further, Petcore Europe emphasizes the importance of packaging design in recycling. Elements such as packaging labels (size and type), or the use of glues and absorption pads are key factors in the feasibility of recycling and are evaluated by the Thermoforms Working Group.
Meanwhile, UK waste and resources charity WRAP, together with partners such as plastic recycling consultancy Nextek and Brunel University London, UK, are undertaking the project “Plastic Packaging Recycling using Intelligent Separation technologies for Materials” (PRISM). The project group is investigating new luminescent materials that can be applied invisibly to labels on plastics packaging, providing an efficient sorting option for recyclables.
Petcore Europe (May 9, 2016). “The recycling of thermoforms: An important challenge for the PET value chain.”
Kari Embree (February 24, 2016). “Project gets funding for invisible markers to improve plastics recycling quality.” Plastics Today
WRAP (September 19, 2014). “Optimising the use of machine readable inks for food packaging sorting.” (pdf)