Busting the PET tray circularity myth: kp Tray2Tray®

Dr. Samuel Pardo, Senior Innovation Manager at kp is debatting about PET tray circularoty myth

Dr. Samuel Pardo, Senior Innovation Manager at kp

Like the Loch Ness Monster and the theory that lightning never strikes the same place twice, there are common myths surrounding the circularity of PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) trays.

At kp, we're on a mission to debunk the myth that PET trays cannot contribute to circularity. We’re doing this through our innovative use of materials, our commitment to circular economy design principles, and our kp Tray2Tray® initiative that rewrites the PET tray circularity rulebook.

Dr. Samuel Pardo, Senior Innovation Manager at kp, recently took part in a lively debate on the topic of PET Tray circularity: Myth or Reality at the Petcore Europe Conference.

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The food industry, and the packaging partners that support it, have made important strides forward in increasing the recyclability of PET trays and designing packaging with this in mind, but there is still more progress to be made.

At present, PET thermoform tray recycling is seeing a technology boom, and the flake substrate is increasingly available, but there are several needs to be addressed on an industry-wide scale. These include:
  • The need to increase collection and sorting, which requires the coordination of multiple stakeholders and municipalities, such as material recovery facilities and plastic recycling facilities.
  • The need to increase recycling capacity and the volume of material that can be processed and recovered.
  • The need for harmonised recycling guidelines and testing protocols across the EU and UK to enhance quality of feedstock.
  • The need for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes and taxation models to fuel the appetite for infrastructure investment.
Group of people sitting on the stage and debatting about circularity for PET trays

By reimagining the tray loop, we're ensuring that PET trays come back into the supply chain as fully recyclable food-safe packaging, rather than only being suitable for secondary non-food applications.

The myth:

PET trays have no place in a closed loop food packaging economy.

The reality:

kp is innovating to increase the availability of food-safe PET feedstock.

The Petcore debate has sparked discussions across the industry, questioning whether there will ever be the technology and investment to create space for PET trays to fit comfortably into today’s recycling economy. At kp, we firmly believe that with the right technology behind them, PET trays are not just recyclable, but represent a valuable resource that must be recycled to meet legislative targets and fulfil industry and societal commitments to sustainability.

We're leading the charge towards a PET tray circular economy with our kp Tray2Tray® initiative. By reimagining the tray loop, we're ensuring that PET trays come back into the supply chain as fully recyclable food-safe packaging, rather than only being suitable for secondary non-food applications. Through third party certification and strategic partnerships with recyclers, packers and retailers, we're increasing the availability and use of tray flake, further underpinning the circularity of PET trays.

When the scheme first launched in 2020, 3% of our post-consumer recycled (PCR) material was from the kp Tray2Tray® initiative. By 2022, that increased to 9.1%, translating to more than 725 million post-consumer trays recovered and used. We have an ambitious target that by 2025, 30% of our PCR flake will come from the initiative. Our goal is to keep as much high-value PET tray flake in a closed loop as possible, which reduces the industry’s reliance on virgin plastic and reduces the carbon output and material impact of the food industry as a whole.

The myth:

PET recyclate can’t be recovered at the volume required to close the material loop.

The reality:

kp Tray2Tray® has the potential to put more than 50,000 tonnes of recycled PET flake back into food packaging use.

kp is a hotbed of sustainable packaging innovation, and kp Tray2Tray® has the potential to bring more than 50,000 tonnes of recycled PET back into food packaging use.

Our products, incorporating kp Tray2Tray®, are used in a wide range of packaging solutions for protein trays and rigid film products, showcasing our commitment to driving meaningful sustainability, and always ‘packaging with integrity’.

The myth:

Using recovered PET tray flake means compromising on packaging quality and performance.

The reality:

kp Tray2Tray® flake is certified by RecyClass and performs as well as any recycled PET without compromising functionality or safety.

What truly makes the difference at kp is that we never see sustainability as just a buzzword. It's ingrained in everything we do. We're investing in a better future by designing new, recyclable food packaging products and closing the material loop through the increased use of recycled material in our post-consumer recycled films and trays.

The benefits extend to our customers, where greater use of recycled material brings regulatory cost advantages. This includes the UK Plastic Packaging tax, Spanish Plastic Tax and reduced costs in countries where Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes incentivise the use of rPET from bottles and food trays.

Together with our partners and customers, we're paving the way towards a more sustainable tomorrow. Join us in debunking the myths surrounding PET tray circularity and making it a reality, with kp Tray2Tray®. Together, we can build a future where PET trays are not just recyclable, but a cornerstone of a truly circular food packaging economy.
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