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HomePET Knowledge BaseWhat is rPET and What Makes It Ideal for Food Packaging?

What is rPET and What Makes It Ideal for Food Packaging?

2024-05-07

What is rPET?

 

rPET stands for recycled polyethylene terephthalate. It is a sustainable alternative to virgin PET plastic, commonly used in items like water bottles. When PET products are recycled, they are processed into granular form and melted down to create rPET pellets. These pellets share many of the same properties as original PET and can withstand temperatures up to 70℃.

 

Impact of rPET on the Packaging Industry

 

The packaging industry is a major consumer of plastics, accounting for over 40% of plastic demand in Europe in 2020, as per Plastics Europe. rPET is revolutionary for this sector because it offers a way to not just replace, but reuse, large quantities of virgin PET. This shift is crucial in addressing the plastic waste problem in Europe and potentially globally.

 

Other Uses of rPET

 

Beyond packaging, rPET has versatile applications, including in the textile industry. Clothes marketed as made from recycled water bottles are typically made of rPET. Unlike the process for creating packaging materials, which involves molding pellets, rPET for fabrics is spun into fibers, highlighting a slightly different manufacturing approach.

 

When is a Product Classified as rPET?

 

A product is classified as containing rPET when it includes a certain percentage of recycled material. However, there's variability in standards, as some countries have not set minimum requirements for what constitutes "recycled content." Without consistent regulations, companies in some places can claim a product is "recycled" with as little as 1-5% recycled content. At Verive, we prioritize transparency and have pledged that our products will contain at least 51% recycled content, ensuring that more than half of each product is made from recycled materials.

 

Optimal End-of-Life for rPET Products

 

The most sustainable way to dispose of products containing rPET is to recycle them. Recycling rPET helps conserve resources and reduce environmental impact, continuing the cycle of reuse. rPET items can generally be placed in standard recycling bins alongside other types of plastic packaging.

 

Impact of the SUP Directive on rPET

 

The Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Directive has indeed impacted the use of rPET in certain products. As of July 2021, the European Union banned single-use plastic items such as cutlery and plates, including those made from rPET. By July 2022, all rPET cups and containers are required to display a 'Made of Plastic' turtle logo to inform consumers about the material. Further regulatory changes will affect rPET bottles and composite containers, including their lids, by 2024, reflecting ongoing efforts to manage plastic waste and promote recycling.

 

Is rPET Safe for Food Contact?

 

rPET is deemed safe for food contact, provided it adheres to applicable regulations. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) oversees these regulations, with Regulation EC 282/2008 outlining the specific rules. Rest assured, all Verive products containing rPET comply with these stringent food safety standards.

 

How Many Times Can Plastic Be Recycled?

 

The number of times plastic can be recycled is a topic of debate, influenced by factors such as plastic type and recycling methods. While some argue for one or two cycles, others suggest anywhere from four to ten times. Evidence even suggests that HDPE can undergo at least ten recycling rounds.

 

Yet, it's commonly accepted that recycling diminishes plastic quality due to the shortening of the polymer chain with each cycle. To maintain quality, virgin plastic is often incorporated into the recycling process.

 

Distinguishing Recycled from Recovered Plastic

 

Recycled and recovered plastic share similarities but aren't always synonymous. The term "recovered" in the EU's Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) broadly denotes repurposed waste serving a useful function, while "recycled" specifically refers to waste utilized as a product or material. Additionally, recovered plastic may encompass materials improperly discarded or found in the natural environment and later collected for recycling.

 

Differentiating Pre- and Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic

 

Pre-consumer recycled plastic originates from waste recycled before reaching consumers, mainly generated during manufacturing processes. In contrast, post-consumer recycled plastic comprises plastic used by consumers, such as in food packaging, which is then recycled after use.

 

Benefits of Using rPET as a Material

 

rPET offers numerous advantages as a widely recyclable, reusable, and robust material, supporting the recycling industry and circularity through multiple uses. It boasts features such as freezability, durability, and effective sealing for food freshness. By opting for rPET, we leverage the opportunity to reuse an existing material multiple times rather than discarding plastic altogether.

 

Why aren’t all plastic products made using rPET?

 

Challenges still hinder the widespread use of rPET in all plastic products. For instance, high levels of recycled content can reduce transparency and make it difficult to achieve food contact grade certification. Mixing PET and rPET provides a workaround for these issues, meeting essential standards. However, ongoing advancements in waste processing technologies offer hope for overcoming these challenges in the future.

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