Express Pharma

The outlook for PET bottles is bright

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PET Packaging Association For Clean Environment (PACE) and National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune have recently conducted a research study to understand the scenario of PET bottle consumption in India. Prakash Chandra Joshi – Secretary General, PACE presents the key highlights of the report

Tell us about the findings of the report released by National Chemical Laboratory on PET bottles. According to the report, how many PET bottles have been recycled by the pharma sector?

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Prakash Chandra Joshi

The report initiated by PET Packaging Association For Clean Environment (PACE) was to understand the PET recycling scenario in the country. PACE requested National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune to undertake a research study to map the recycling landscape of post consumer PET bottles in India. The project team studied various working of recycling system, value chain, price point; people engaged in recycling PET, process used to develop a robust understanding of the underlying issues in recycling.

Almost 900 K tonnes of PET material was used in India in 2016 and it is established that almost 65 per cent to 70 per cent of the post consumer PET bottles are being recycled in 45 organised recycling facilities.

PET bottles are being used for packaging of products like cough syrup, antacid, multi vitamin, food supplements. The PET material is free of Bisphenol-A, endocrine disruptive chemicals and is permitted by Indian Drugs & Cosmetic Act, Indian Pharmacopoeia and BIS. It is estimated that around 80 K tonnes of PET material is being used for pharma which is around nine per cent of the total material used. Many of the PET bottles use amber colour to improve the UV resistance of the bottle. It is estimated that 60 per cent of these bottles are recovered and used for making black fibre. It is further concluded from the study that PET bottles used in pharma take around 18 months from the time filled with products to reach recycling stream.

Give us a brief report of the ongoing activities of PACE?

PACE is an industry association to facilitate the framing, development and dissemination of best practices related to PET manufacturing, recycling. Incorporated on March 3, 2015, PACE promotes environmentally-friendly packaging, improving its quality, environmentally safe and friendly PET packaging for beverages and food and pharmaceutical products.

PACE is presently engaged with various centres of excellences like National Chemical Laboratory, Pune; Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi; Indian Institute of Packaging, Mumbai; Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai; Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, to research and study the health aspects, life cycle assessment and mapping of recycling landscape related to PET bottles under Indian conditions. It is expected that the outcome of the research will be a valuable source of information for the benefit of various stakeholders including government and regulatory agencies.

How many sector members are part of PACE and what are the criteria to become a member of the association?

We have members consisting of raw material producers, processors, brand owners and recyclers covering the full value chain of the industry.

The membership is of two types. They are subscriber members who participate in the management of the association and the other is called associate members who are entitled to access the resources being build by PACE and taken care of their interest as industry member.

How did you execute the project? And what was your learning? Which new projects do you plan to execute? Anything in particular for the pharma sector?

If we talk about the methodology, a combination of site visits, interviews, literature survey was used for this study. The project team visited PET waste collection, sorting centres, PET waste traders and PET recycling units spread across the country, and have interviewed over four dozen vendors, traders, recyclers who are engaged in this business, and have interviewed industry experts, experts from trade organisations, PET manufacturers, bottlers, NGOs etc. NCL have used the existing (and emerging) literature in this field—reports, analysis, journal articles, market data, government data etc. to aid our analysis and understand the overall picture and present that through this report and a dedicated website. The draft report is available in the website named www.petrecycling.in

From the learning perspective, there are various ways in which recycling of PET bottles impacts society. First and the most obvious ways is the reduction of the total solid waste that ends up in landfills, thus creating enormous strain on the overall ecosystem. Without recycling of PET bottles, much of this would either end up in landfills or used for generating energy by incineration etc. But the conversion of PET bottles into marketable items puts them back in consumption cycle again.

PACE is studying all the aspects of the PET bottle industry covering the health and recycling on ongoing basis. It will continue to invest its resources to research, study and innovate to ensure that PET remains a material of choice for packaging of beverages, food, pharma and personal hygiene products in circular manner with no cost to environment in close consultations with all stakeholders including government and regulators.

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What is the consumption of PET bottles in the pharma sector and how has it grown in the last two to three years? Tell us the issues faced by PET manufactures and how to overcome the challenges?

It is estimated that 80,000- 85,000 tonnes of PET was used by the pharma sector. The market has been growing at 8-10 per cent YTY basis. It is expected that it will continue to grow at the same rate for next three to five years.

PET bottle manufacturers have been adding capacity as per the requirement of the industry. These bottles conform to various BIS standards and manufactured and packed in class 10,000 environment to ensure the quality of packaging. Some of major BIS Standards applicable for PET Bottles for pharma sector are:

  • 1987- 12252: PET and PBT for safe use in contact with foodstuffs, pharma and drinking water
  • 1998- 9845: Determination of overall migration of containers of plastic materials intended to come in contact with foodstuffs, pharma and drinking water
  • 1999- 10171: Guidelines of suitability of plastics for food packaging
  • 2014- 9833: Pigments and colorants in plastics for contact with Foodstuffs, Pharma & Drinking water

Why should PET bottles be preferred against glass bottles?

PET is hygienic, strong and resistant to attack by micro-organisms, does not react with foods or beverages and will not biologically degrade. Its safety for food and beverage use is recognised by health authorities around the world. But unlike glass, PET is extremely lightweight, simple to transport and won’t break, which is why it’s preferred for packaging many foods and beverages. Also, glass bottles if not manufactured properly have the tendency to delaminate in the content if kept for long time. PET bottles do not exhibit any such tendency. It is possible to transport 30,000 of 100ML PET bottles in a truck against only 18,000 bottles of glass. This reduces the transport cost and environmental impact.Plastic and glass are both recyclable, but since glass can only be recycled and turned into more glass, it limits its options. On the other hand, since plastic does not loses its integrity, it can be recycled into a number of products from carpet filling to plastic lumber and so on.

How are PET bottles more environment friendly in comparison to glass?

PET is well known for its clarity, making it a lightweight, non-breakable alternative to glass and other plastic resins. Consumers are increasingly interested in authentic, ‘real food’ offerings and transparent PET supports this trend.

PET is a remarkably energy-efficient packaging material, with an environmental impact that compares very favourably to glass, aluminum and other container materials. Although PET’s feed stocks are derived from crude oil and natural gas, approximately 40 per cent of that energy is trapped within the PET polymer for recapture and reuse every time PET is recycled. And because PET is very strong yet lightweight, it allows more product to be delivered with less packaging, less weight and less fuel for transport. These factors help explain why life cycle studies of PET have consistently shown it to be a highly sustainable material with a positive environmental profile.

The outlook for PET bottles in bright in line with growth of the products approved and accepted for using such packaging. The cough syrup, suspensions, antacids, multivitamins are estimated to grow at 10-12 per cent on YTY basis. This means that 10,000-12,000 tonnes per year will need to be processed into bottles to meet the packaging demand of the pharma sector.

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