PET bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate; a type of clear, strong, and lightweight plastic that we use to manufacture a number of cosmetics bottle styles in our catalog. The first ever PET bottle was patented in 1973, and today they are used for a wide variety of applications. Along with cosmetics, PET bottles are used for soft drinks, detergents, pharmaceuticals, alcoholic beverages, and for many other containers.
But just how eco-friendly are PET bottles? The truth is that virgin PET bottles are made using non-renewable resources such as crude oil and natural gas, but when compared to other materials, PET plastics are actually much more eco-friendly than you may think.
Production of PET Bottles
Alternatives to PET typically use much more energy to produce, such as polycarbonate which is estimated to use 40% more energy (1) during the production process than is used when manufacturing virgin PET bottles. But figures like this are becoming obsolete as the number of virgin PET bottles being made is dropping. Instead, an increasing number of PET bottles are being made from recycled PET (2), helping to develop the circular economy. It’s estimated that nearly half of all PET energy use is ‘resource energy (3)’, which means that we can discount this energy use when producing PET from recycled PET.
PET bottles are one of the most heavily recycled plastics (4) in the United States, with the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) noting that more than 2 billion lbs are collected across the US and Canada per year. Part of the reason for this is understood to be the clear #1 resin code on bottles which minimizes confusion around what materials can and cannot be recycled. Additionally, the high acceptance rate of PET bottles from local recycling centers certainly helps. Overall, it’s believed that the recycling rate for PET bottles (5) in the United States is hovering at around 30 percent.
PET is lightweight, which means it can be transported easily while minimizing the amount of fuel used as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. NAPCOR estimates that if a city of 200,000 people recycled one PET bottle every day, the reduction in greenhouse gasses would be the equivalent of taking 240 cars off the road for an entire year.
The Circular Economy
Ultimately, PET bottles support the development of the circular economy. Through recycling and reuse, PET bottles reduce the amount of virgin plastics, and minimize demand on finite resources. Today, PET bottles can be transformed into a wide range of items, including rope, yarn, industrial strapping, jackets, bags, and even carpeting.