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The objective of the Design for Recycling Guidelines for PET bottles is to encourage packaging designers, converters and users to integrate certain criteria during the development phase of a new product in order to facilitate PET recycling. The decisions that are made early in the design process can ultimately affect the potential to recycle PET bottles back into high-end applications such as bottles. Then again, the ease with which you can separate and recycle PET bottles can be compromised by many factors including the choice of bottle colour, barrier systems, use of additives, closures composition and labels.

The Design for Recycling Guidelines for PET bottles are based on the requirements for mechanical recycling of post-consumer PET bottles into applications such as bottles, film, sheet, strapping and fibres. Mechanical recycling is the re-melting and transformation of waste materials into new recycled products without changing the basic chemical structure of the processed material.
 
The key principles of the Design for Recycling Guidelines are appropriate for all PET bottles. These include:
 
·         Avoid the use of materials and/or components that are known to impede the PET recycling process or reduce the quality of the recycled PET.
·         Reduce the amount of non-PET components to allow for ease of separation and efficiency of recycling.
·         Design components, such as closures and labels, so that they can easily, safely, cost-effectively and rapidly be separated and eliminated from the recycled PET.
·         The goal of improving the recyclability of PET bottles cannot compromise product safety.
 
This webpage provides guidance on numerous elements of PET bottle design that have the ability to impede the PET recycling process or reduce the quality of the recycled PET. The summary table provides a snapshot on how to prevent contamination of the PET bottle stream. It also provides specific details that we are unable to convey in the summary table, which can be found by clicking on the hyperlinks (ie. underlined text).
 
Materials and/or components used in PET bottles are classified under one of the following categories:
 
·         Full compatibility – Materials that according to the EPBP testing protocol demonstrate no negative impact on the current European PET recycling process (also known as category “YES”). The use of these materials and/or components are encouraged to ensure that PET bottles are highly recyclable.
 
This category also contains some materials and/or components in PET bottles which have not been tested (yet), but are known to be acceptable in PET recycling.
 
·         Limited compatibility – Materials that according to the EPBP testing protocol demonstrate limited impact on the current European PET recycling process (also known as category “CONDITIONAL”). When a use is conditional, it has the ability to negatively impact the PET recycling stream, but these effects are not detrimental if certain conditions are met. For instance, the use of a material and/or component can be limited to a certain weight percent of a particular bottle design in relation to the total PET market. The specific conditions of these materials can be found on our website.
 
This category also contains some materials and/or components in PET bottles which have not been tested (yet), but which our experts believe pose a low risk of interfering with the PET recycling processes or contaminating the recycled PET.
 
·         Low compatibility – Materials that according to the EPBP testing protocol demonstrate a negative impact on the current European PET recycling process (also known as category “NO”). The use of these materials and/or components needs to be restricted because of their detrimental effect on the quality of recycled PET or interference with current PET recycling processes.
 
This category also contains some materials and/or components in PET bottles which have not been tested (yet), but which our experts believe pose a high risk of interfering with the PET recycling processes or contaminating the recycled PET.
 
Materials and/or components that failed the testing protocol purely as a result of a negative impact on the visual aspects of recycled PET (ie. colour and haze) may be classified in a different category in the clear / light blue PET stream and the coloured PET stream. Our panel of experts has therefore established two sets of design for recycling guidelines, one for the clear / light blue PET bottles and one for the coloured PET bottles.
 
It is important to note that the production of food contact grade rPET has the potential to a provide a high value market, but it requires a clear or light blue PET bottle stream due to the problems associated with achieving a consistent colour in the end use application such as bottles or sheet. Markets for coloured rPET are often limited to coloured end-use applications such as strapping or fibers. As a result, colourless / light blue post-consumer PET attracts higher sales prices compared to the darker coloured PET streams.

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This work has been published by the European PET Bottle Platform with experts in the plastics packaging and recycling industry. The information contained in this document is for general guidance only. Any details given are intended as a general recommendation based on the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. It does not necessarily guarantee compliance with the different recycling schemes. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Users are therefore advised to make their own enquiries with EPBP, local recyclers or recycling organisations to check for specific and up-to-date information.

It is important to note that this is a living or dynamic document which will be continually edited, updated and expanded by our panel of experts as more information becomes available. This means that a certain product and/or material classification may change in future. Users are therefore advised to check the EPBP website for the latest information (www.petbottleplatform.eu).
 
We value your feedback because it will help us to develop this publication even more and to make it a useful tool for you and other actors in the PET value chain. We appreciate you taking the time to let us know what you think about EPBP’s Design for Recycling Guidelines, so please send your comments and/or additional  information to: epbp@epbp.org.
 
We call upon all companies developing new resins, additives, technologies and novel processes for PET bottles to bring their products to the European PET Bottle Platform in order to get an objective third party assessment of their recyclability. Assessment is free, but any testing will be at the cost of the applicant. For more information about our assessments, please contact us on enquiry@epbp.org.