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Plastic Bottle Recycling, Recycled PET Price Increases

Plastic polyethylene terephthalate bottle recycling has increased 53 percent in 12 years.

According to the National Association for PET Container Resources, in 2012, 31.8 percent of PET bottles in the US were recycled or 859,000 tons. This is up 6.6 percent from 2011’s 802,000 tons, and up by 53 percent from 2002’s 398,500 tons.

Additionally, recycled PET pellets are now selling a nickel higher than new PET produced from scratch at refineries. As of April 15, virgin PET was selling at 72 cents per pound, compared with 77 cents per pound for recycled PET pellets, according to PetroChem Wire, a chemical industry news and price reporting service.

One reason for the virgin-to-recycled-PET price anomaly is an overproduction of virgin PET in the US, PetroChem Wire says. This is the result of investors being convinced that demand for PET would rise, so they built new PET production plants in recent years.

Xavier Cronin, editor of Repro-Regrind Resin Report, which PetroChem Wire publishes, says the US started recycling plastic far more than in previous decades while at the same time some states started passing bills requiring bottle deposits.

Another factor Cronin cites is that some plastic-bottle makers must include a certain percentage of recycled PET in their new production to meet environmental mandates. This further increases demand for recycled PET pellets.

The global PET packaging market will have grown substantially by 2019, according to a report by Smithers Pira published earlier this month. The market will amount to 19.9 million tons and be worth $60 billion by 2019, up from just under 16 million tons and $48.1 billion in 2014.

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