3 reasons to be happy about recycled plastics
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a material that commonly appears in everything from drink containers to carpets. It’s also one of the most widely (and easily) recycled materials on the planet. We use it a ton, and that’s a good thing. Here’s why:
Reduced need for virgin plastic
When companies pick rPET over new plastic, they’re picking a much more sustainable solution. Producing from 100% rPET can spend less than a quarter of the energy and thus save significantly on greenhouse gas emissions.
By choosing PET, you also reduce the demand for the raw materials to make PET (ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid).
The bad news: as the world population grows and bottled water becomes more and more ubiquitous, we’re using more and more bottles and packaging. This poses a significant waste disposal challenge on top of the production costs.
The good news: every year, recycling rates have gone up. In 2003, only 19.6% of bottles sold in the US were recycled. In 2013, 1,798 million pounds of plastic bottles were collected for recycling in the US, out of about 5,764 bottles — that’s 31.2%. As the culture shifts, technology improves and virgin resources become scarcer, we’ve got every reason to believe that that number will continue to improve.
And companies are more and more frequently choosing rPET. It’s frequently a featured component of sustainability initiatives, and demand regularly outpaces supply. (So recycle more!)
You can feel good about your products.
With rPET, you don’t just save on waste and energy. You’re also making a statement about how important responsible use of resources is to you and your company. It’s a great way to show off your green credentials with promotional goodies.
What can I use rPET for?
Though rPET largely comes from recycled bottles, it’s rarely used in high concentrations in new bottles. We attribute this decision to the slight taste especially apparent in water, caused by non-toxic levels of the chemical acetaldehyde. rPET can also appear slightly discoloured in clear bottles—which is, understandably, unacceptable to most drink manufacturers. New technology can produce viable 100% recycled bottles, but it isn’t universally available yet.
Just because we can’t always turn old bottles into new bottles doesn’t mean that rPET is useless. rPET has long been used for packaging, blankets, non-drink bottles, bags, garments and more. We at Ethical Profiling have produced rPET gear, often from the very waste streams of our clients. Our work on Coca Cola’s 2010 Olympic uniforms was hailed as the most environmentally responsible Olympic program ever produced in part because it was produced from more than 250,000 recycled plastic bottles and in part because it was a carbon neutral, zero waste initiative. With the advanced technology, new applications for using rPET instead of virgin plastic, and growing recycling rates, we expect big things for the future of this material.
Feature photo: White plastic flakes from a plastic recycling facility. (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/Flickr)
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