Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) Solid-State Resins
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Published: January 2012
PET resin was introduced commercially in 1953 for use as a textile fiber and, shortly thereafter, as a film. It was not until 1966 that the first injection-molding PET resins were introduced, followed by the development of injection (stretch) blow-molded bottles in 1973. These bottles are lightweight, shatterproof and (potentially) reusable. The early market driver was the need to reduce transportation costs in the early 1970s during the first energy crisis. Improved product safety associated with plastic bottles was another factor in their continued use. The potential for recycling provided an additional incentive beginning in the early 1980s.
PET is the most recycled polymer in the world. It is estimated that about 6 million metric tons of PET are recycled every year worldwide. Most (over two-thirds) of the recycled PET (rPET) goes into fibers and carpet applications, whereas only small quantities go into PET solid-state applications. Demand for rPET has been growing fast recently, in particular driven by the bottle-to-bottle recycling market. Many bottle manufacturers in Europe and in North America are in fact targeting a 25% rPET content in their bottles. The reason behind the strong growth in rPET demand is the increase in legislation that requires the reduction of solid waste, as well as an increasing trend toward carbon footprint reduction. Japan and Europe are the world leaders in PET bottle recycling, with PET bottle collection rates of about 78% and 48%, respectively. Other countries, such as the United States, have bottle collection rates of only about 29%.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of PET solid-state resins:
Bottles for carbonated soft drinks and bottled water together account for more than 65% of global PET solid-state resin demand. Bottles for other beverages such alcoholic drinks, hot-filled drinks and fruit juice account for another 18–19%. The remaining 16–17% is made up of sheet, food, and nonfood applications, with shares of roughly 14%, 5%, and 10%, respectively.
Asia, and in particular China, dominates PET solid-state resin demand and also has the fastest consumption growth rate. The second-fastest-growing region is Africa and the Middle East, followed by Central and South America.
Europe and North America are, respectively, the second and third major consumers of PET solid-state resin, after Asia. In these regions demand has stabilized, as many applications have reached maturity. In many Western European countries, as well as in Canada, there is a trend away from bottled water, in favor of tap water. Moreover, many brand owners are shifting toward thin-walled PET containers in the key water bottle market, thus contributing to reduced consumption. In these developed regions, the PET solid-state resin market is expected to grow at an average annual rate below 2% through 2016, although some applications such as dairy drinks, juices, sports drinks and alcoholic drinks are expected to grow faster.
Globally, consumption is projected to grow at an average annual rate of over 4.5%. This growth, however, will not be enough to absorb the excess capacity, which is growing by about 6.5% per year through 2016. The PET solid-state resin market will remain oversupplied unless a significant rationalization takes place in the next few years in Asia.