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Warning over rise in colourful plastic packaging

The future of PET recycling could be in doubt if the use of coloured variants of the plastic increases, it is claimed.

Plastics Recycling Europe (PRE) said that a number of prominent product lines would progressively switch from HDPE to PET for cost, marketing and sustainability reasons.

These products typically use a range of colours in their packaging, and PRE believes a shift could introduce 300,000 additional tonnes of coloured PET on to the market: “The PET recycling markets cannot afford to absorb these extra colours.”

The organisation said that as the quantity of coloured PET packaging increases, recyclers will need to increase their sorting procedures to separate the materials.

Much of this material could then only be used to produce tinted black or grey PET. PRE said that there was no current market for these colours.

One of the most prominent uses of the material is in milk bottles, which use titanium dioxide as a white pigment. PRE said the compound would cause contamination issues and lead to a fall in the use of recycled PET on the market.

“These ‘colourful’ future trends will weaken the image of PET as a recycled product,” said PRE. “Additionally, it will create great difficulties for the PET recycling industry, which already has other market barriers to overcome.”

It suggested that full body sleeves could be used to provide the same colourful effect without contaminating the underlying plastic.

The UK’s plastics recycling industry has come under pressure in recent months with the largest rHDPE manufacturer, Closed Loop Recycling, recently bought in a ‘pre-pack’ administration deal by a Dubai investor in May.

The difficulties faced by the sector were being blamed on the low price of oil, which has caused a fall in the price of virgin plastics.

But Surendra Borad Patawari, chairman of the plastics committee of the Bureau of International Recycling, recently argued that there was no direct correlation between falling oil prices and the predicament of the recycled plastic sector.

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