Most single-use plastic bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET is a plastic resin and the number one choice of consumer goods manufacturers because of its strong but lightweight qualities.
While PET is used by most food and beverage companies as their packaging of choice, it’s often not recycled. This, unfortunately, leads to masses of single-use plastic waste being newly created and incorrectly disposed of.
What is PET made from?
It’s interesting to understand PETs composition and how it’s turned into the plastic packaging we see on the market. Knowing this, we can learn about the environmental impact it has and take action to reduce it as much as possible.
Quite simply, PET is formed by ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. These two elements are combined to form pellets of PET plastic. To produce plastic bottles, the PET is polymerised to create long molecular chains which undergo a manufacturing process to turn it into the end product.
How are PET plastic bottles made?
Plastic bottle manufacturing begins with a process called stretch blow moulding. The PET pellets are heated to the point of liquidation and poured into a long, thin tube mould. The PET is transferred from this mould to a bottle-shaped mould where a thin steel rod is placed inside the tube. The rod fills the mould with highly pressurised air where the stretch blow process takes place. The direct air, heat and pressure force the plastic to blow and stretch into the shape of a bottle.
The mould is cooled almost instantly using air or water. This ensures that the plastic has set smoothly and in the correct shape. As soon as the bottle has cooled and set, it can be taken out of the mould. The plastic bottles are then ready for transportation to the food or beverage manufacturer where they are filled and sold on the market.
What is rPET?
While PET is a sustainable source of plastic packaging, we want to reduce the amount of new PET that is produced. We can achieve this by using our existing sources to their full potential. The solution to this is rPET, also known as recycled PET. rPET refers to plastic bottles that are made from existing sources of PET and can be reused to make bottles again and again.
At Pro Environmental, we buy tonnes of recycled PET bottles and put them through our system. The recycled plastic is shipped to our facility in Kent to be processed. The PET plastic bottles are separated to remove any contaminating elements. The bottles are shredded into flakes and cleaned in three stages. The flakes are sent to UK suppliers that supply PET to the food and beverage market.
The flakes are melted into sheets and moulded for their next use. After being filled and branded, the bottles are ready to be sold commercially. They are then used and placed into recycling bins by consumers. The PET bottle is sent to a recycling depot to be separated from other materials where the process begins again.
With millions of plastic bottles on the market, we have a responsibility to reduce the amount of plastic we consume. As it’s impossible to not consume plastic products, we must prioritise recycling to reduce our waste. By using rPET wherever possible, suppliers and manufacturers can close the gap and reduce demand for the production of new plastic.