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Government must back rPET revolution, say drink makers

By Neil Merrett , 24-Jul-2008

Green aspiring beverage manufacturers need greater support from governments in turning to materials like recycled Polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) in their packaging, says the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA).

A spokesperson for the trade group told BeverageDaily.com that a drive for greener packaging is ensuring a rapid demand increase for recycled materials in their products, though supply currently remains limited for rPET.

The comments come in a week where UK-based the Co-operative Group claimed that it has become the first retailer in the country to supply its entire line of own-brand drinks in 100 per cent rPET-derived bottles.

In turning to the material, which is formed by washing, melting and then reforming PET granules into bottles, the retailer claims that it will cut its carbon dioxide (CO2) emmisions by 1,212 tonnes over using virign plastic supplies.

This will result is an equivalent saving of one-and-a-half tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of plastic used in packing for the drinks brand, which is manufactured by the Silver Spring mineral water group, claim the Co-operative Group.

Limitations

However, BSDA spokesperson Liz Bastone claims that although a number of manufacturers are looking to follow suite where possible, ensuring a constant supply of recycled products like rPET was not currently possible.

She added that governments therefore, which in the case of the EU have instigated a number of green business pledges, had more to do in markets like the UK to ensure the use of recycled packaging remains viable.

"It is essential that recycling rates grow and as part of the BSDA's sustainability strategy, the industry is keen to work with national and local government to further improve kerbside recycling schemes and recycling infrastructure," Bastone stated. "Clear, simple and consistent schemes will encourage consumers to recycle and will improve collection rates."

The BSDA said that the establishment of an industry standard on rPET would help establish and more consistent and open supply of the materials to encourage more environmentally friendly beverage packing.

WRAP

Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a government-backed programme charged with ensuring that the UK meets EU requirements on reducing waste, agreed that there are limitations in the current supply of rPET.

A spokesperson for the programme said that 180,000 tonnes of plastic bottles were currently being exported for recycling, though new plants, set to open in the UK by next year at the latest, would help to boost supply in the country.

"Plastic bottle recycling is a real success story but the frustration is that there are many brands and retailers who wish to use rPET now and cannot secure supply at the moment," stated the spokesperson. "The picture is set to change significantly in the next 12 to 18 months."

Wrap said that overall it had been encouraged by the stance taken by the Co-operative Group on rPET, though wished more was being done by big brand names in the beverage world.

"Technically speaking using 100 per cent rPET in an own brand range rather than a branded range is not very significant," the spokesperson said. "It is a positive step and the more consumers see the use of rPET in branded and own brand packs then this helps consumers realise the benefits of recycling their bottles."

rPET alternatives

Despite this focus, WRAP stressed that the material was not the only type of recycled packaging available to beverage manufacturers for their products, claiming that there is no 'most sustainable' option for the industry.

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