27 Mar 2024

PET on the road to circularity, but disparities are creating potholes

2022 was an unprecedented year for the PET and rPET value chains, as shown in the latest report1. Despite extreme uncertainty, figures show advancement in the market. However, the disparities in the collection, sorting and recycling of PET around Europe will need to be addressed to achieve the EU recycling targets in the mid and long-term.

PET collection and recycling accelerated in 2022 ahead of the new EU Single-Use Plastic Directive targets. The collection rate of PET in 2022 was 60%, showing an increase from the 45% achieved in 2020. Furthermore, the sorted for recycling rate for PET beverage bottles alone was estimated to be 75%, compared to 61% in 2020.

This collection rate is expected to keep growing in years to come, due to the wider rollout of deposit-return systems across Europe. In 2022, 12 countries in EU 27+3 were reported to have this collection method operational, while 9 have taken the political decision to install DRS in the near future.

As for the collection, almost 2.7 million tonnes of PET waste were sorted for recycling. In addition, the total installed recycling capacity was around 3 million tonnes, out of which 1.4 million tonnes were destined for food contact applications.

Packaging was the dominant end-use for rPET in 2022, with 48% used in bottles. This shows a very positive increase in bottle-to-bottle recycling in Europe. 25% of rPET was used in sheets (trays), and the remainder was used in non-packaging applications including polyester fibres (15%), strapping (6%) and others (6%). The value chain has also already taken steps towards tray recycling and chemical recycling.

To continue the trend towards true circularity, the disparities between EU Member States in terms of collection, recycling and uptake will need to be tackled, as today some countries are not likely to meet 2025 targets if no further investment is maintained. Therefore, specific actions per Member State need to be addressed to improve the waste collection and recycling infrastructure and take steps to meet the targets.

The implementation of the SUPD and further investments in the waste management and recycling sectors will be essential to maintain the competitiveness of the EU’s industry. ​

1. PET Market in Europe: State of Play, by Plastics Recyclers Europe, UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe, Natural Mineral Waters Europe (NMWE), Petcore Europe and ICIS Consulting.


Natural Mineral Waters Europe has been the voice of natural mineral water and spring water since 1953, and today represents more than 500 producers. The sector provides European consumers with healthy, natural and high-quality hydration. Pioneers in sustainable management, our members have a long tradition of working in partnership with local communities to safeguard the environment around water resources. Our mission extends to achieving full circularity for all packaging.

Petcore Europe is a Brussels-based, not-for-profit organization, representing the entire PET value chain since 1993. Its membership consists of more than 165 companies (corporations) including PET producers, recyclers, converters, brand owners, technology providers, PET prod converters, labels, cap suppliers, masterbatch suppliers, waste management companies, and retailers, and also includes 9 associations. Petcore Europe’s vision is to achieve widespread recognition of the performance of PET as a circular material of choice for packaging and to make sure that PET is collected, sorted, and recycled.

UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe was established in 1958 and is the Brussels-based trade association representing the European soft drinks sector. Its membership comprises 10 companies and 25 national associations from across Europe. UNESDA members are involved in the production and/or distribution of a wide variety of non-alcoholic beverages including still drinks, carbonated drinks, energy drinks, iced teas, flavoured waters, and sports drinks.

Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) is an organisation representing the voice of the European plastics recyclers who reprocess plastic waste into high-quality material destined for the production of new articles. Recyclers are important facilitators of the circularity of plastics and the transition towards the circular economy. Plastics recycling in Europe is a rapidly growing sector representing over €10.4 billion in turnover, 12.5 million tonnes of installed recycling capacity, around 850 recycling facilities and over 30,000 employees.

Contact: guiomar.hernandez@plasticsrecyclers.eu; www.plasticsrecyclers.eu