JUNE 2011

Degradable additives provide poor end-of-life option for PET packaging

The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) reiterated its position on degradable additives, confirming its opposition to their use in all PET packaging. The PET trade organization had previously urged caution in the use of these additives, citing lack of data about potential effects on PET recycling. NAPCOR’s decision to reaffirm its public stance on this issue was prompted by continued new package introductions and related claims, without adequate new data demonstrating additives’ efficacy as an end-of-life strategy, or their effects on recycling.

“There is still insufficient evidence that these additives do ‘no harm’ to the PET recycling stream under real-life conditions, nor is there data to confirm that the lifespan and functionality of the many next-use products made from recycled PET won’t be adversely affected,” said Tom Busard, NAPCOR’s chairman.

Degradable additives are commonly added during the production of plastic packaging in order to promote degradation of that packaging under certain circumstances. These additives are impossible to detect visually, or through any commonly used sorting technologies. NAPCOR maintains that the use of degradable additives in PET packaging not only jeopardizes PET recycling, but runs counter to the principles of sustainability and sound environmental stewardship, making it a poor end-of-life option:

  • Increases GHGs emitted in landfills and elsewhere;
  • Squanders value of the energy inherent in a plastic package that would be captured through recycling and re-converting to a new end-use application;
  • Provides no nutrient value to the environment in which it decomposes;
  • Endangers post consumer plastic recycling for those resins in which the additive is used;

Concern about the integrity and safety of products made from recycled materials containing degradable additives, and the lack of data on their potential effects on the PET recycling stream, prompted the plastics recycling trade organization, The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), to develop and publish test protocols in early 2010, “Degradable Additives and PET Recycling Technical Compatibility Testing Guidance.”

“Although some data have come in, they are not sufficient to remove doubt about the potential effects of these additives,” said APR technical director David Cornell. “Since the protocols were made public about a year ago, only a very small percentage of the manufacturers that market these products have made public any data on recycling effects. We are far from assured these products do no harm.”