Austin, TX— As plastics continue to come under attack, the PET industry needs to better highlight the benefits of using this material, according to a longtime packaging manufacturer and recycler.
That’s why the National Association for PET Container Resources is putting the finishing touches on a new life cycle assessment that does just that, NAPCOR President Tom Busard said at the recent packaging conference in Austin.
New data, still preliminary, shows that PET has improved some key environmental measures since the last LCA undertaken by the trade group 13 years ago.
A lot has changed since 2009, when the last NAPCOR LCA was introduced, Busard told the conference crowd.
NAPCOR has been working on an update for two years with help from consulting firm Franklin Associates.
“Peer review is not complete yet. These are all preliminary results. But we don’t expect them to change much,” Busard said.
Updated LCA figures show that a 20oz PET bottle, selected due to its popularity, is 18% less greenhouse gases, 24% less energy and 31% less solid waste less than the 2009 ACV figures, he said.
LCA data is in high demand by companies using PET bottles for their products, as other substrates such as metal and paper increasingly seek to take market share from PET.
“We don’t have time to waste on these things. We need to get the data quickly,” Busard said. “The thing is, everyone is fighting to have a better story.”
Busard’s day job is vice president of global sourcing for Plastipak Packaging Inc. of Plymouth, Michigan, and president of the company’s Clean Tech Inc. recycling division.
The ACV figures will allow PET packaging companies and brand owners to do just that. “The information is in high demand, because again, every customer wants to know, ‘Help me defend myself against this stuff and feel good about making a decision about PET,'” he declared.
The ACV’s preliminary figures tell what Busard called a “fantastic story.”
“All of the recuperators, including ourselves, run more efficiently, with less energy, larger systems. You’re still using water, you’re still using chemicals, but, boy, grounding Scale really makes a difference,” he said.
Although 13 years have passed since the last ACL, NAPCOR expects updates to occur more frequently in the future. NAPCOR plans to release a final version of the latest ACL by May 1.
Laura Stewart is Director of Operations at NAPCOR, having recently been promoted to Director of Commercial Group Communications.
She said the new information would reduce the mess. “It’s complex and there’s a lot of noise. The update of this comparable data is huge.”
NAPCOR said the need to provide up-to-date information about ACV is important to help get the industry message out to a wider audience, not just industry players.
“I think it’s very easy to get into that echo chamber,” Stewart said.
But with virtue signals complicating packaging choices, legislative activity and the potential for bans at stake, Stewart said providing up-to-date environmental data is essential.
The ACL information update is part of a broader drive by NAPCOR to be a more outward-looking organization, she said.
This includes NAPCOR’s Positively PET campaign which seeks to promote the benefits of PET containers. Positively, PET’s efforts to engage consumers face-to-face have been impacted by COVID-19, but the campaign continues to deliver messaging via social media to specific geographic markets on a rotating basis.
This includes efforts on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn as well as engagement with traditional media.