Beverages / Environmental

Recycled Plastic Shortage Hits Bottlers

By Pan Demetrakakes, Senior Editor

Jul 02, 2019

Beverage companies that want to put more of their product into recycled plastic are coming up against a shortage of used containers, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The major beverage bottlers – especially the ones that bottle water, which has taken a lot of criticism on environmental grounds – have pledged for years to intensify their use of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET). Industrywide, use of recycled plastic is about 10%, but PepsiCo is aiming for 25% rPET use by 2025, while Coca-Cola and Nestlé Waters have eventual goals of 50%. PepsiCo recently announced that its Lifewtr brand will be packaged in 100% rPET.

The problem, the Journal reports, is that rPET supplies are stagnating. One of the biggest reasons is a recent cutback by China on the amount of recycled material it accepts. The resulting glut has depressed prices for recycled material of all kinds, which lowers the motivation for municipalities to maintain and expand curbside recycling.

The 10 states that require deposits on beverage containers have consistently high recycling rates and, in fact, supply a third of America’s rPET. But beverage processors have consistently opposed mandated deposit, calling it a tax on beverages that creates logistical problems for retailers and distributors.