PET plastic bottle recycling: How is PET different from other plastic types?

There’s no denying that plastic plays a significant role in the manufacturing and packaging industry. Its versatility enables it to be moulded into different shapes and sizes, alongside many other useful properties.

However, as the world continues to take action against the global environmental impact of plastic, many companies are revising their operations to implement sustainable practices. At Petainer, we provide innovative packaging solutions that are specifically designed to fit into the circular economy. Our products are designed to be recycled, to reduce waste leaking into the environment.

PET plastic is a sustainable packaging option and the leading type of plastic used for beverage bottles, owing to its excellent chemical resistance to organic materials and water, and high strength to weight ratio. Here we’re going to explore what exactly PET bottles are, assess their benefits, and compare them to other plastic types.

What is PET?

PET, polyethylene terephthalate (also known as PETE) is a strong, stiff synthetic material that is part of the thermoplastics family, meaning it can be heated, melted and cooled into many shapes and sizes. Made from a combination of oils and petrochemicals, it’s popular within the manufacturing sector for producing bottles and jars. In fact, almost every plastic bottle is made from PET. It’s suitable for a range of beverages including carbonated, still and dilutable drinks, fruit juices, and bottled water.

The material offers a protective barrier against CO2 and light, repels microorganisms and is EU/NSF/FDA tested and approved. PET is lightweight, can have a very clear appearance and looks similar to glass once set. It’s strong, non-reactive and shatterproof, which allows the material to achieve high safety standards for food, drink and personal care products. It is so strong, that it can undergo HPP – high pressure processing – a heat free form of pasteurisation.

Is PET more eco-friendly than other types of plastic?

PET is the preferred for plastic bottles (and other uses) as it’s 100% recyclable and highly sustainable. It can be recovered and recycled into new products again and again, reducing the amount of resources wasted. This is unlike other types of plastic, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), which are used for things cling film, single-use plastic bags, food containers and disposable cups respectively.

PET also has a low carbon footprint as it uses less energy during manufacturing, which helps suppliers to reduce overall energy consumption. Here at Petainer, we produce PET bottles in factories that are powered by renewable energy, boosting the product’s sustainability credentials and allowing us to cut down on carbon emissions. We can give you an idea of your carbon impact with our Carbon Calculator on our website.

As it’s lightweight, this enables companies to transport large quantities of PET bottles and further reduce carbon emissions that come from transportation. This also makes it an economical choice for businesses.

Life cycle of PET

The life cycle of a PET product can be very long, with low plastic waste created if consumers correctly dispose of it. The material is easy to recycle, and recycled PET is a valuable commodity with its closed loop potential. Most PET bottles are clearly labelled with the #1 resin code that indicates to consumers it’s fully recyclable, PET plastic. Some plastic containers are multi-layered, for instance, which some find time-consuming to sort properly.

Recycled content

PET products can be produced using recycled PET. Petainer’s one litre refillable PET bottles are made with 30% recycled content, for example, which also offers an 81% reduction in carbon compared to refillable glass bottles. A few of our design styles can be produced using 100% recycled content — eliminating virgin plastic from the production process will help save up to 75% in carbon emissions.

Is PET safer than other types of plastic?

As previously mentioned, PET is shatterproof and will not cause harm if broken or damaged — it’s known as the ‘safe’ plastic. PET doesn’t contain Bisphenol-A (BPA) either, a chemical that can be harmful in large quantities. Some types of plastic contain this, and it’s been reported to interact with the body’s endocrine system, potentially causing negative health effects. This is the main reason why so many consumers are switching from polycarbonate to PET water coolers, with the former type of plastic often containing BPA.

Overall, PET is a safe, hygienic packaging solution, approved by official health and safety boards. Its composition means it doesn’t react with any food or liquids that come in contact with the material, making PET bottles risk-free and safe to drink from.

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