HomeIndustry InsightsRecycling Industry Urges Ban on Coloured PET Bottles Due to Recycling Challenges

Recycling Industry Urges Ban on Coloured PET Bottles Due to Recycling Challenges

The recycling industry is calling for a ban on coloured plastic bottles, such as those from L&P, due to significant recycling challenges and new findings about the environmental impact of these bottles.

Despite the New Zealand government's new recycling regulations, many local councils are forced to either send these PET(Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottles to landfills or stockpile them because no local facilities can process coloured PET. 

While larger councils, like Auckland, can export these bottles, smaller councils face greater difficulties. At a facility in Richmond, 80 tonnes of coloured bottles are awaiting overseas buyers. Councils in regions such as Queenstown Lakes and Waikato face similar issues, often ending up with these bottles in landfills due to limited market demand and high handling costs. 

Clear PET bottles are much easier to recycle locally. In contrast, coloured PET is less versatile and turns brown or grey when reprocessed, making it less desirable for recycling.

Major Challenges of Recycling Coloured PET Bottles

1. Sorting and Identification: Coloured PET bottles are more difficult to identify and sort using standard recycling technology. Automated systems can easily distinguish and separate clear PET, but coloured PET often requires more manual intervention.

2. Contamination Risk: Coloured PET can contaminate batches of clear PET during recycling, resulting in lower-quality recycled materials. This contamination risk reduces the value and usability of the recycled product.

3. End Product Quality: When recycled, coloured PET typically produces a brown or grey material, which is less aesthetically pleasing and versatile compared to the clear recycled PET. This limits its applications and market demand.

4. Market Demand: There is a limited market for recycled coloured PET compared to clear PET. Manufacturers prefer clear PET for its versatility and ability to be easily dyed into various colors.

5. Processing Costs: Handling and processing coloured PET bottles is more costly. The additional sorting, potential contamination, and lower market value make it less economically viable for recycling facilities.

Call for Manufacturer Accountability and Sustainable Practices

Despite the Ministry for the Environment's defense of including coloured PET in the new recycling rules, concerns persist regarding the lack of onshore processing facilities. Ministry for the Environment waste manager Shaun Lewis emphasized the importance of uniformity and noted the low volumes of these bottles. However, internal concerns have been raised about the lack of onshore processing facilities, and the Ministry acknowledges that local recycling solutions for coloured PET are still years away.

Industry experts, such as Barney Irvine, argue that producers should take responsibility for the recycling challenges and the potential environmental impact. They suggest that the government should consider banning coloured PET bottles if companies do not voluntarily switch to clear plastics. Some companies have already begun transitioning to more recyclable materials, responding to the industry's call for better recycling practices and environmental sustainability.

The recycling challenges associated with coloured PET bottles underscore the need for manufacturers to consider the recyclability and environmental impact of their products, particularly the use of brightly colored plastics, which degrade faster and pose a greater threat to the environment.

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