Petcore Europe is the association representing the complete PET (PolyEthylene Terephthalate) value chain in Europe since 1993 and each year, the European PET value chain meets in Brussels for the annual Petcore Europe Conference. This year the two day conference was held at the Crowne Plaza Brussels Hotel to welcome more than 300 industry delegates.
Under the theme “Circularity and Innovation - Shaping the future of PET”, the complete PET industry sector shared perspectives and strategies for a succesful and even more circular future on the last 5 and 6 February. From PET resin and masterbatch producers, packaging designers and manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, label producers to major brand owners, EPR schemes, waste management organisations, recyclers, waste sorting and recycling machinery manufacturers - the entire value chain was represented.
Additionally, speakers and participants from the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Eunomia shared their thoughts on the PET market as well as the plastics industry in the Circular Economy.
Opening the conference, Stephen Short, President of Petcore Europe, stated that Petcore Europe represents the entire PET value chain since 1993. The strength of the organisation is the engagement of over 90 participating member organisations working together on the circularity of PET through working groups and projects".
Day 1 - Perspectives and Strategy for the PET value chain.
The focus of the first session of the day was to give an overview of the current PET market. Andy Grant from Eunomia gave an overview of the PET collection and recycling rates for tle last period 2018/2019 as well as the key drivers of the market. According to Eunomia, significant improvements have been made in recycling processes and with the increasing quality of materials, rPET could reach as much as 55% of total PET demand by 2030.
But there are still smaller rates than expected to cover the real demand stablished by 2025.
Afterwards, Alessandra Funcia, Head of Sales and Marketing Sukano, presented Petcore Europe’s two major working groups: WG PET Thermoforms Reccyling and WG on Recycling of Opaque and Functional PET packaging (former ODR). Alessandra focused on Design for Recycling as well as solutions for the uptake of recycled material from PET trays and ODR packaging.
Sebastian Lemp, from Petcore Europe then focused on the need for the PET industry to communicate and showcase the environmental benefits of PET. Sebastian introduced some projects and strategies of other like-minded organizations and iniatives and concluded: "It's time to work together and make the circularity of PET understood amongst policy makers and the public", “we need to communicate beyond “our walls”.
He used these 3 terms: PET’s reciclability, sustainability and circularity to explain that it can have the best performance among other materials and even other plastics.
During the second session of the first day, experts from the PET value chain gave strategic outlooks from the PET producers', converters' and recyclers' point of view and to finalise, the third and last session was focused on technical challenges for the PET industry.
In the last presentation of the day, Professor John Fawell from the University of Cranfield presented microplastisc myths vs. scientific work done in the area. He concluded his presentation by stating the following: "We do not want scare stories about microplastic particles in drinking and bottled water to distract attention from the bigger issue of plastic waste in the environment and our individual responsibility for disposing of plastic waste safely."
At the end of the day, a cocktail and dinner event facilitated a period of networking for the participants to exchange views on the conference and key issues for the PET value chain.
Day 2 - Circularity and Innovation - driving the PET industry
The second day of the conference started with the morning session focusing on "PET in the circular economy - a global perspective".
A significant highlight of the conference was the presentation by Rana Pant from the European Commission. Rana, Policy Officer at DG ENV, gave a detailed overview of the SUP Directive and Essential Requirements in the PPWD. He insisted on an evaluation and follow-up of the new regulations by the European Commission as well as most likely an elaboration of a positive & negative recycling list.
Christian Crépet, Executive Director of Petcore Europe, thanked Rana for the clarifying presentation and stressed the importance of collaboration between the industry and policy makers.
At the end, Professor Kim Ragaert from University of Ghent presented what is needed to make PET trays, among others, roll down the bottles road into circular economy. The need to find other sources of PET to produce r-PET is imminent, due to it is given by law, the future need. Kim concluded her presentation by stating that the PET bottle made it to the posterchild of plastics recycling due to industry collaboration. PET trays have the same potential, with a few neat tricks provided by science it can follow the bottles into circular economy. In general terms, collaboration between all agents will help and drive the industry to get a better results and common solutions around sustainability and circularity.
Trends and Solutions in PET Collection and Recycling
In the afternoon session of day two, the focus shifted to trends and solutions in the PET post-consumer collection and recycling: the current state of Deposit Return Systems and it's potential to grow, the collection and sorting of ODR and PET trays in France, Citeo's efforts to find circular solutions, the Holy Grail project on digital watermarks.
Trends in Chemical or Back-to-Monomer Recycling.
The last session of this year's Petcore Europe Conference focused on Monomer/Enhanced recycling.
Heike Fischer, from PETplanet introduced and moderated the session in which Leela Dilkes-Hoffman from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Wim Hoenderdaal from Indorama Ventures Europe and Bruno Van Gompel from Coca-Cola presented their views on PET monomer recycling.
Two days full of interesting presentations and colloquies between the main agents of the PET value chain, with which, without a doubt, the excellent work they all carry out in the market is strengthened and their collaborative ties are stronger, in order to walk together towards a more sustainable economy around PET.
See you next year, Brussels!