HomePET Knowledge BaseWhy PET is More Than Just a Single-Use Plastic

Why PET is More Than Just a Single-Use Plastic


Addressing the issue of single-use plastics is crucial, yet not all plastic packaging should be viewed through the same lens. Polyethylene terephthalate, commonly known as PET and identified by the recycling symbol #1, stands out as the most recycled type of plastic packaging in Europe.


PET bottles are designed with sustainability in mind. They are unique in that they can be completely recycled in a closed-loop system, from bottle back to bottle. This capability sets PET apart from typical single-use plastics, positioning it as a reusable resource.


Developed in the 1940s, PET is exceptionally lightweight and robust, qualities that have made it a favorite in the packaging industry. It's deemed safe for food contact both before and after recycling, having gained approval from global governments and regulatory bodies. Its effectiveness and safety have contributed to its dominant presence in the packaging of 70% of carbonated soft drinks, fruit juices, dilutable drinks, and bottled water.


Why PET isn’t like other plastics


PET plastic, recognized by its #1 recycling designation, stands out for its exceptional recyclability. The industry’s goal is a closed-loop system where PET bottles are continually recycled into new bottles. PET’s ability to incorporate up to 100% recycled content makes a future feasible where all bottles are made from recycled PET (rPET).


In Europe, the recycling rate for PET bottles is currently around 58%. There is a push to improve this number significantly. By 2025, the aim is for all PET bottles to consist of at least 25% rPET, and by 2029, the goal is to collect at least 90% of all PET bottles for recycling.


To support a more sustainable packaging future, the industry is investing in deposit return schemes and enhancing recycling capacities, with the ability to recycle an additional 11 billion bottles annually. However, improving collection rates is essential to utilize this capacity fully.


The push for more rPET usage in production is strong, but success depends on recovering more used bottles. Every PET bottle that is incinerated or ends up in a landfill represents a lost opportunity to reuse valuable resources. Recycling PET is a critical step toward a sustainable future.


Moreover, the industry has made strides in designing lighter PET bottles, reducing their weight by 40% since 2000. This reduction means that more goods can be transported using less plastic, lowering the environmental impact of transport as lighter loads require less fuel.


What Is the Most Eco-Friendly Packaging Material?


PET not only surpasses other plastics in performance but also proves advantageous over materials like glass and aluminum.


Recycling PET is a quicker and more energy-efficient process compared to glass and aluminum, leading to up to 75% less greenhouse gas emissions. This makes the choice to use and recycle PET a sustainably superior option, one that can be repeated indefinitely.


While the goal is for each PET bottle to be recycled into a new one, the quality of PET can degrade over time due to usage or the recycling process. When this happens, though the material may no longer be suitable for food or drink containers, its high recyclability ensures it can be repurposed for various other products.


Degraded rPET finds new life in the production of polyester fiber, which is used in carpets, soft furnishing fillings, and even roofing insulation. The automotive industry utilizes rPET for car interiors and parts like seatbelts.


Furthermore, rPET’s versatility extends to the fashion industry, where it's transformed into fabric for t-shirts, thermal underwear, luggage, bags, and even athletic footwear.


The essence of PET is in its potential for rebirth. Every discarded bottle represents a lost chance to recycle and reuse a valuable resource. Let's commit to recycling and make the most of PET’s potential. Recycle the #1 and help end waste.

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