Materials

Systemiq roadmap could see 70 per cent reduction in PET plastic waste

London-based environmental consultant Systemiq has released a new study that presents a comprehensive roadmap for achieving a high–circularity, low–emissions system for plastic varieties PET packaging and polyester textiles in Europe. 

Plastic bottles‘Circular PET and Polyester: A circular economy blueprint for packaging and textiles in Europe’ provides the first system-level analysis of how different circular economy solutions for PET and polyester could fit together to limit demand, achieve high levels of reuse and recycling, and lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is used extensively across many industries – in particular, consumer packaging and textiles (where it is known as polyester).

By 2040, the proposed roadmap has the potential to have a significant impact on the sector's environmental impact by resulting in a one-third reduction in overall PET/polyester consumption, a 70 per cent reduction in waste to landfill and incineration, and a halving in GHG emissions.

It also has the potential to create 28,000 net new jobs and stimulate an additional €5.5 billion per year in revenues for the recycling industry. Alongside creating a sufficient feedstock of recycled content to contend with the requirements of the EU’s draft Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR).

The latest study is the second in a series and builds on a study published in early 2023. Drawing on insights sourced from 80+ published reports, along with input from industry experts, the synthesis study evaluated the current state of PET/polyester circularity in Europe and the solutions available to build a more circular system.

A roadmap to Circular PET plastic and polyester

The roadmap highlights emerging technological developments and circular economy innovations that are yet to be extensively deployed across the polyester and PET supply chains. These include chemical PET recycling, rental models in the fashion sector, advanced waste sortation and packaging reuse.

Chemical PET recycling, for example, produces virgin-like recycled PET suitable for contact-sensitive – or ‘food-grade’ – applications. It also has lower GHG emissions and higher material-to-material yields compared to thermochemical recycling technologies such as pyrolysis typically used for chemical recycling of other plastic types in the municipal waste system.

Until now, these circular economy approaches have not been combined in a system model and scenario assessment to evaluate their full potential for system circularity. Systemiq says that through quantitative system modelling, and exploring the material flows and environmental implications of future scenarios, it has been able to theorise the results forecasted above.

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