What is PET plastic?

Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is a type of plastic. You can find it in things like water bottles, soda bottles, packaging and even some clothing. It’s strong, lightweight, and easy to recycle. In 2021, The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) recorded its highest ever PET plastic recycling rate of 28.6% in US. The problem with increasing recycling rates is the collection of PET plastic, not the difficulty of recycling. So, PET is a plastic that’s used for making bottles and other stuff, and we can use it again and again to help the environment!

PET plastic Bottles

When comparing PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottles to other types of plastic bottles, such as HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) and LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene), PET has some distinct advantages:

  1. Strength: PET is generally stronger and more rigid than HDPE and LDPE, making it suitable for containing carbonated beverages and liquids under pressure. It resists deformation and cracking better.

  2. Lightweight: PET is lighter than both HDPE and LDPE, which can result in cost savings during transportation due to reduced weight. This is especially valuable in the beverage industry.

  3. Transparency: PET offers excellent transparency, allowing consumers to see the product inside the bottle. LDPE, in contrast, tends to be less transparent, and HDPE is usually opaque.

  4. Recyclability: PET is highly recyclable and is widely accepted in recycling programs. It can be turned into recycled PET (rPET) for use in making new bottles and various other products.

However, it’s important to note that each type of plastic has its own unique set of properties, and the choice of plastic for bottle manufacturing depends on specific product requirements, such as the need for rigidity, chemical resistance, or barrier properties. HDPE, for instance, is often chosen for detergent and milk bottles due to its chemical resistance and durability. LDPE is commonly used for squeeze bottles and flexible packaging because of its flexibility.

In 2021, the PET bottles market in North America was valued at USD 7.54 billion. It is projected that between 2023 and 2028, the market will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3%, leading to an estimated value of approximately USD 9.71 billion by 2027.

With the increasing production and use of PET bottles, major manufacturers have banded together and are funding projects that will collect and recycle more PET bottles. Their stated goal is 100% recycling of plastic bottles.

Myths about PET bottles

Using PET bottles is a safe thing to do. No harmful substances are added and PET is perfectly recyclable as described above. Let’s look at the myths that are common about PET bottles.

  • PET Bottles Contain Harmful Chemicals (BPA)

Fact: While some plastics, including certain types of polycarbonate, may contain BPA (Bisphenol A), PET bottles are generally considered safe from BPA. PET is a different type of plastic that does not use BPA in its production. It’s important to check the recycling code on the bottom of a plastic container to determine its material.

  • Reusing PET Bottles is Unsafe

Fact: PET bottles can be safely reused for their intended purpose, such as refilling with water or other beverages. However, they may degrade over time with repeated use, so it’s essential to inspect them for any signs of wear, such as cracks or cloudiness, and replace them if needed. Also, avoid reusing PET bottles that originally held chemicals or non-food substances.

  • PET Bottles Release Harmful Toxins When Heated

Fact: PET bottles are generally safe for use with cold and room-temperature beverages. However, when subjected to high temperatures, such as those in a microwave or a dishwasher, PET can break down and release small amounts of chemicals, including antimony. To avoid this, it’s best not to heat or reuse PET bottles for hot liquids.

  • PET Bottles Cannot Be Used for Carbonated Beverages

Fact: PET bottles are suitable for carbonated beverages, and they are commonly used for sodas and sparkling water. PET is strong and can withstand the pressure created by carbonation. The bottles are designed to hold carbonated drinks safely.

How to contribute to recycling pet bottles?

To contribute to PET bottle recycling, start by practicing responsible disposal. Always place used PET bottles in recycling bins, separate them from regular trash, and follow local recycling guidelines. Support recycling programs and initiatives in your community, and choose products packaged in PET bottles to create demand for recycled materials. Reduce single-use plastic consumption by opting for reusable bottles, and raise awareness about the importance of recycling PET to encourage others to do the same. Every small effort counts towards a more sustainable future.