The majority of parliamentarians in Germany’s Bundestag have approved changes to German Packaging Law. This means that an extension of the mandatory deposit to include PET juice bottles will ultimately come into force as of January 2022. Stricter regulations on recyclability and the amount of recyclate in PET bottles will also apply in the future.

By including PET bottles previously not subject to a deposit in the system, it is extremely likely that more rPET will be available to the bottle-to-bottle loop — at least this is what many stakeholders expect. According to a study by packaging market research institute GVM from 2018, to date about 10% of all PET bottles each year are still lost to the closed recycling loop due to the limitations of the mandatory deposit system. This amounts to approximately 40,000 metric tons of plastic per annum that cannot be reused to make food packaging.

In Philipp Langhammer’s view, who serves as product manager for barrier technology at KHS, extending the mandatory deposit system is a leverage factor that can be used to further increase the average amount of recyclate in PET bottles. This not only promotes sustainable processes but also increases consumer acceptance of this material. Furthermore, bottle-to-bottle recycling provides a number of benefits regarding the carbon footprint, says Langhammer. “rPET has a balance that is up to 60% better than new material in this respect.”

“Producing designs suitable for recycling, especially as regards single-use PET bottles, is now even more important following the decision made by the German government,” says Langhammer. Implementing the new legal requirements is a huge challenge for all those involved, however — from retailer to recycler. For instance, juice and nectar bottles made of PET that may contain additives with oxygen absorbers can no longer be collected through the yellow recycling sack system but are to be returned to the recycling loop. However, these additives make them more difficult to recycle than a normal PET bottle, in turn complicating joint further processing of both bottle types. “With our FreshSafe PET barrier technology, an interior SiOx coating of chemically pure glass, we provide an established system for this relevant problem. It makes bottle recycling much easier as the coating can be simply washed off during the recycling process,” Langhammer explains.

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