How plastic water bottles are made and what becomes of them once they go in the blue bin. Polyethylene terephthalate plastic, ...
or PET, is 100% recyclable and used to make a wide variety of products. This is the lifecycle of a PET water bottle.
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You may not realize it but it’s likely part of your everyday life, from the moment you get up until you get ready for bed. Known as Polyethylene Terephthalate Plastic or PET, a strong shatter resistant but extremely light weight form of clear polyester that is 100% recyclable. Often used for bottled water, PET’s light weight reduces the amount of raw material needed compared to glass or metal. Requires less energy to transport, leaves a smaller carbon footprint and because it’s durable, requires relatively less packaging for protection but how is it made and how does it become part of everyday life?
The making of a PET bottle starts with resin beads. The beads are loaded onto the production line, liquefied, and injected into a mold to produce pre-forms. The pre-forms are stretched and molded into bottled forms, and then taken a long the production line where they are filled, capped, and labeled.
A detection device verifies every bottle and ensures they are filled to the top, properly capped and correctly labeled. Bottles missing any one of these requirements are removed from the line.
The bottles continue along where they are grouped, packaged and stored in the warehouse. On delivery days, the pellets of bottled water are loaded on to trucks and sent to retailers for consumers to enjoy.
PET bottles can have a second life once they are recycled. Once recycled bottles are collected, they are sent to recycling center. Trucks enter the center and deposit materials for processing. A front-end loader operator pushes recycled materials unto a conveyor and takes all materials to pre sort lines. Line sorters separate materials and the plastics are moved into bunkers below the lines where they are compressed into bails under high pressure and stored in loading areas. These compacted bundles are then sent to a re-claimer where they are de-bailed, sorted, pre-washed, and shredded into flakes.
After they are washed and dried, flakes are sold to end markets top be used in the manufacturing of new products which saves 50% to 60% of the energy it would take make the same product from raw material.
PET is one of the most valuable recyclable materials available and it’s used to make a wide variety of products. Playground equipment, auto parts, carpeting, shoes, other plastic containers, and even furniture can be made from it. Poly-lumber was used to make this outdoor furniture. It has the appearance of wood but it’s made from recycled PET bottles and won’t splinter, crack, rot, or peal.
PET is one of the most consistently recycled materials on the market. 19 bottles creates the fiber to make an extra large t-shirt or one square foot of carpet. It takes only 63 bottles to make a sweater, and 114 bottles to make the fiber fill for a sleeping bag.
So, the next time you recycle your PET bottle, know you’re making a smart choice for the environment.