Increase Consumer Awareness on PET Bottle Consumption

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In 2006, Sweden set recycling quotas for packaging material which are subdivided into different packaging materials and adjusted respectively. For PET bottles, the recycling quota is set to 90% (Notisum, 2014). Furthermore, it is clearly defined that recycling of packaging can either take place as material utilisation (including b2b recycling) or energy recovery in order to fulfil the proposed recycling quotas (Lilienberg, Purfürst & Sköld, 2006). Energy recovery is not considered as a material utilisation recycling process. Nevertheless, every ready-to-drink beverage in plastic bottles with less than 50% milk or juice sold in Sweden has to be covered by a return and recycling system (Notisum, 2014). The deposit system for PET bottles was initially introduced in 1994 and modified in 2006. It provides a financial incentive for consumers to return and recycle postconsumer PET bottles (Notisum, 2015). The existing deposit system (pantsystem) is in accordance with the legal requirement of a return system in order to achieve these recycling quotas (Notisum, 2014). Since the system is not government-run, any private entity can establish its own return system with approval of the Swedish Board of Agriculture (Jordbruksverket) (CRI, 2016). Furthermore, the deposit amount is not clearly determined by law but decided by the entity running the return system (Notisum, 2014). The Swedish Board of Agriculture approved a nationwide bottle return coordinator that fulfils the legal prerequisites and holds a monopoly position for returned PET bottles (Returpack AB, 2016b; Lilienberg et al., 2006). This bottle return coordinator is a nonprofit organisation. It implemented a two stage deposit of either 1 Swedish Krona (SEK) (~0.11 €) or 2 SEK (~0.22 €) depending on the size of the PET bottle (Returpack AB, 2016d).

Barriers in PET Recycling

As the result of a literature review, various barriers for PET bottle recycling in general and b2b recycling in specific are found. These barriers depend on the focus and time of the respective conducted study and are seen as a general theme. However, these findings apply as barriers for b2b recycling as well, since it is a subcategory of PET bottle recycling. The mentioned barriers do not specifically apply to the focus countries Germany and Sweden, since literature with a sole focus on one of these focus countries is not existent. Firstly, post-consumer PET bottles in the recollection feedstream might be contaminated and damaged by non-food substances (Welle, 2011; Matar, Jaber & Searcy, 2014). Non-food PET bottles can be part of a general PET bottle recollection feedstream and threaten its purity of variety. Hence, high cleaning standards to the recycled PET are required (Hopewell et al., 2009). Furthermore, consumers could fill PET bottles with alienated substances such as chemicals and return them afterwards within the regular recycling system (Welle, 2011). Consequently, strict and demanding requirements exist for the use of r-PET resin in food packaging (Nascimento et al., 2006). These requirements ensure the safety of food packaging that uses r-PET resin as a raw material (Welle, 2013). In association with these requirements, the use of r-PET in food packaging requires an excessive bureaucracy (Nascimento et al., 2006).

Enhancements in PET Recycling

On the basis of the barriers described in the previous section, there are several potential enhancements and incentives mentioned in literature to improve a PET bottle recycling system (cf. Table 2-3). These enhancements are found based on the focus and time of the respective conducted study and are seen as a general theme for PET bottle recycling. The following enhancements are not specific for the focus countries Germany and Sweden, since there is no literature available. However, it is asserted that these findings apply as enhancements for b2b recycling in Germany and Sweden as well, since it is a subcategory of the recycling system. Additionally, the enhancements mainly refer to improvement of prerequisites for the general recycling system. Hence, improving the prerequisites will consequently refine the bottle-to-bottle system as well. Firstly, the communication between the different actors in the value-added supply chain should be enhanced in order to change focus to a holistic perspective on the recycling process (Matar et al., 2014; Welle, 2011; Eik, 2005). This would also foster the development of consistent standards for PET raw material (Eik, 2005). One challenge is the contamination of post-consumer PET waste with different kinds of chemicals which can only be removed through advanced recycling processes (Welle, 2011). If these additives are limited, the mechanical recycling is considerably more efficient (Welle, 2011). Additionally, Hopewell et al. (2009) suggest limiting the diversity of plastics 17 packaging to PET, high-density polyethylene and polypropylene in order to reduce cross-contamination.

Research Philosophy

When conducting research, it is important to be aware of the underlying research philosophy in the particular study, as this implies a certain way of viewing the world (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2014). The different types of research philosophies refer to the process of knowledge development and the consequential nature of this knowledge (Saunders et al., 2014). Bryman & Bell (2011) reflect the two dimensions of research philosophy as ontology (assumptions and nature of reality) and epistemology (constitution of acceptable knowledge in a study field). In management research, the research philosophies are divided into positivism, realism, pragmatism and interpretivism. Positivism refers to an observable social reality and value-free research developing law-like generalisations as an end result (Saunders et al., 2014). Realism differs from this, as it sees objects independently of the human mind, meaning that our senses show the truth of reality (Bryman & Bell, 2011). Pragmatism suggests that the main focus lies on the particular research question, making it possible to adopt more than one position within a study (Saunders et al., 2014). Finally, interpretivism argues the social world of business and management being too complex to be grasped by explicit laws. Therefore, the researcher must understand the differences of humans in the role of social actors (Saunders et al., 2014).

Research Design

According to Yin (2014), the case study strategy can be distinguished into two discrete dimensions. Firstly, it is separated between a single case and a multiple case. The second dimension differs between a holistic case and an embedded case. Given that a single case study focuses on a unique case such as a single company, the multiple case study approach incorporates various cases. Blumberg, Cooper & Schindler (2011) and Yin (2014) argue that a multiple case study is preferable since the delivered results are more robust and more significant. A multiple case study follows the rationale of collecting findings and observing whether findings occur in various cases. These findings need to be generalised to a certain extent (Blumberg et al., 2011; Saunders et al., 2014). Nonetheless, Yin (2014) limits the case study findings’ applicability for generalisation to analytic generalisation, in which a particular set of findings is generalised to some broader theory. In this context, a multiple case study is applied since both Germany and Sweden were chosen as focus countries. Each country’s PET bottle recycling system as a whole is considered as one case. Consequently, this study includes two cases – the German PET bottle recycling system and the Swedish one. Several respondents within each country’s system were identified in order to achieve a comprehensive view. In Germany, six respondents from six organisations were selected, while in Sweden eight respondents from six organisations were selected to conduct the research. The underlying selection process is explained in the ensuing section.

Table of Contents :

  • 1 Introduction
    • 1.1 Background
    • 1.2 Problem Statement
    • 1.3 Purpose
    • 1.4 Scope and Delimitations
    • 1.5 Outline of the Thesis
  • 2 Frame of Reference
    • 2.1 Introduction to Frame of Reference
      • 2.1.1 Plastics Recycling in Europe
      • 2.1.2 Processes in PET Recycling
      • 2.1.3 Sustainability
    • 2.2 Deposit Systems and PET Bottle Recycling
      • 2.2.1 Germany
      • 2.2.2 Sweden
    • 2.3 Barriers in PET Recycling
    • 2.4 Enhancements in PET Recycling
  • 3 Methodology
    • 3.1 Research Methodology
      • 3.1.1 Research Philosophy
      • 3.1.2 Research Purpose
      • 3.1.3 Research Approach
      • 3.1.4 Qualitative Research
    • 3.2 Research Strategy
      • 3.2.1 Research Design
      • 3.2.2 Data Collection
      • 3.2.3 Data Analysis
    • 3.3 Research Quality
      • 3.3.1 Validity
      • 3.3.2 Reliability
      • 3.3.3 Research Ethics
  • 4 Findings
    • 4.1 Focus Country: Germany
      • 4.1.1 Operations in the Current PET Bottle Recycling System
      • 4.1.2 Recyclers
      • 4.1.3 Bottle Filler
      • 4.1.4 Associations
      • 4.1.5 Consolidation of Findings
    • 4.2 Focus Country: Sweden
      • 4.2.1 Operations in the Current PET Bottle Recycling System
      • 4.2.2 Bottle Return Coordinator
      • 4.2.3 Recycler
      • 4.2.4 Bottle Preform Manufacturer
      • 4.2.5 Associations
      • 4.2.6 Consolidation of Findings
  • 5 Analysis
    • 5.1 Operations in the Current PET Bottle Recycling Systems
    • 5.2 Barriers for Closed-Loop PET Bottle Recycling
      • 5.2.1 Quality and Material Factors
      • 5.2.2 Regulatory Factors
      • 5.2.3 Economic and Market Factors
      • 5.2.4 Consumer Factors
    • 5.3 Enhancements for Closed-Loop PET Bottle Recycling
      • 5.3.1 Quality and Material Factors
      • 5.3.2 Regulatory Factors
      • 5.3.3 Recollection Factors
      • 5.3.4 Expanding Factors
  • 6 Discussion
    • 6.1 Recycling Content Symbol
    • 6.2 Council for Bottle Quality in Germany
    • 6.3 Quality Seal for Holistic System
    • 6.4 Reduction of Transportation in Sweden
    • 6.5 Increase Consumer Awareness on PET Bottle Consumption
    • 6.6 Summarising Framework
  • 7 Conclusion
    • 7.1 Theoretical Contributions
    • 7.2 Managerial Implications
    • 7.3 Limitations
    • 7.4 Further Research
    • References

The Closed-Loop Endeavour

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