Clear unpigmented PET
Clear material has the highest value as a recycled stream since it has the widest variety of end-use applications. It is the most cost effective to process through the recycling system.
Transparent light blue
Light blue material is most often included with the clear material stream to act as a bluing agent and offset some yellowing. This adds volume to the high value clear stream and improves its quality when used in limited amounts. Normally it can also be added to the green stream with little negative effect.
Transparent light green
Green material has significant volume in the marketplace and may comprise up to 30% of the PET bale. The reclaimer may process it into a value added product, or send it to another reclaimer dedicated to green material. Its value is second only to clear material.
Opaque colored and white bottles
Colored bottles that are not transparent may contain pigments that cause contamination in the PET stream. The colorants used to make a white PET bottle are not separable from the resin, and mix with clear and all other colors when the rPET pellets are extruded. This results in undesirable colors and a low-value rPET. Other opaque colored bottles also have very limited market value, as they cannot be included with the transparent bottle stream and the costs of sorting them into a separate bale usually outweigh the value gained.
Transparent bottles, not light blue or light green
Other transparent colors are used for PET bottles containing specialty beverages, supplements, personal care and automotive products. These may be sorted as PET and processed into lower value, dark colored fiber or sheet products.
REQUIRES TEST RESULTS
Black and dark colors with L-Value less than 40 or NIR reflectance less than or equal to 10%
Historically, black colored packaging items have not been detectable as PET with NIR sorting, and therefore virtually all went to the waste stream. Recent innovations in both black colorants and sortation technology have created the possibility of sortable black PET containers. However, markets for black PET containers remain limited as referenced above. Therefore, testing results are limited to Detrimental and Non-recyclable only at this point in time.
Sortable colorants are commercially available. Companies that are considering such colorants and are unsure of their compatibility with recycling should ask their suppliers to provide APR test results. As noted above, an item may meet the technical specifications for sorting, but may still not be considered recyclable due to lack of markets