Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET for short, is one of the most utilized plastics in the world. It is also the most often recycled plastic globally. In this country alone, some 1.5 billion pounds of PET are recycled every year. How does it work? And more importantly, where does it all go?
Most of us are familiar with PET by way of water bottles, juice and soda bottles, and plastic food packaging. PET is an attractive material for such uses because it can be easily formed into virtually any shape. It is also very cheap to produce. Fortunately, unlike some other types of plastics, PET is fully recyclable as long as it is clean. It can be recycled almost endlessly.
Recycling In a Nutshell
Recycling PET is pretty easy. Seraphim Plastics, a Tennessee company that recycles a long list of industrial plastics, says the key to successfully recycling PET is cleaning and sorted. The actual process is pretty simple.
A recycler like Seraphim will pick up a load of PET that has already been sorted from other plastics and cleaned. Upon arrival at the processing plant, the material is run through a series of grinders that reduce it to pellets or flakes. Those pellets and flakes are sold to manufacturers as feedstock.
Feedstock is essentially recycled material that’s used to feed new manufacturing processes. It is normally mixed with virgin plastic so as not to compromise the quality of the products being made.
What Recycled PET Becomes
PET feedstock is combined with virgin plastic to make all sorts of things. For starters, the feedstock goes into making new plastic water bottles and food packages. Next time you buy a bottle of water, consider that the bottle itself is made mostly of recycled PET. There could be remnants of dozens of other bottles in its makeup.
Recycled PET is also used to make:
- Fabrics – Recycled PET flakes can be further processed to create tiny fibers that are spun into threads. The threads are used to manufacture fabrics. That waterproof rain suit in your closet is likely made from one such fabric.
- Footwear – Manufacturers have figured out how to turn recycled PET into materials that can be used to construct shoes, boots, flipflops, etc. They manufacture lightweight footwear that’s still durable and good looking.
- Carpets – Recycled PET plastic can also be transformed into thicker fibers that eventually become carpet fibers. PET-based carpets are pretty resilient over long periods of time.
- Sunglasses – In recent years, a number of startups have gotten into the business of turning PET trash into designer sunglasses. It is a way to help save the planet and build a viable business.
- Fiberfill – Recycled PET is a fantastic material for manufacturing fiberfill. Fiberfill is a filler material used in furniture cushions, sleeping bags, and even pillows.
- Pallet Straps – Palletized goods are sometimes held in place with the use of pallet straps. These are plastic straps that are wrapped around the load and secured tightly. They can easily be made from recycled PET.
This is just a short list of things recycled PET can be put into. The best thing about recycling PET is that it is so simple. We are already recycling more than a billion pounds of it annually. How much more are we sending to landfills and incinerators?
Recycling PET is one of the easiest ways you can contribute to a cleaner and less wasteful planet. To learn how to recycle at home or through your business, take an hour of your time and do some research. You’ll find all of the information you need to know online.