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Enhancing PET Bottle Recycling for True Circularity in Europe

The Current State of PET Bottle Recycling

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is a prevalent material in the production of plastic bottles. Research by Eunomia Research & Consulting for Zero Waste Europe unveils that a majority of PET recovered from bottles in Europe isn’t remade into new PET bottles but is used in lower-grade PET applications. With a recycling rate of around 50% in Europe, there is a pressing need for significant improvements in PET design, collection, and recycling to bolster the circularity of PET recycling.

Challenges in Achieving PET Circularity

The journey towards PET circularity is fraught with challenges. A substantial amount of recovered PET is not being utilised to its full potential, indicating a gap in the recycling process. The recycling rates for PET bottles also exhibit disparities across Europe, influenced by the presence or absence of deposit return systems (DRS).

Strategies for Improved PET Recycling

Ambitious commitments from large brands and major policy changes in Europe are steering the path towards enhanced PET recycling. Implementing advanced collection systems like DRS, transitioning to transparent bottles, and prioritising bottle-to-bottle recycling are pivotal strategies. Additionally, the maturation of chemical depolymerization technologies can significantly contribute to the PET cycle.

The Road Ahead

The vision for the future is promising, with the potential to achieve between 61% and 75% recycled content in bottles by 2030. However, under the prevailing market conditions, reaching these targets necessitates overcoming technological and economic barriers and fostering collaboration for substantial policy changes.


Dorota Napierska of Zero Waste Europe underscores the imperative for substantial policy shifts and the removal of barriers to enhance PET circularity. The journey towards true circularity for PET and other plastics demands not just recycling but also the adoption of durable applications over single-use ones.


  • How much of PET bottles are recycled in Europe?

    • Approximately 50% of PET bottles are currently recycled in Europe.
  • What policies will be implemented in Europe to promote the use of recycled PET plastic?

    • Europe is implementing major policy changes, including enhanced collection systems and transitioning to transparent bottles, to promote the use of recycled PET.
  • What is the capacity of PET recycling in Europe?

    • The capacity for PET recycling in Europe is growing, with advancements in collection systems and recycling technologies.
  • What is the future of the PET bottle industry?

    • The PET bottle industry is moving towards true circularity, with the potential to achieve up to 75% recycled content in bottles by 2030 through policy changes and technological advancements.

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