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What Is rPET?

Jun. 02, 22

RPET-Polyester Pellets

RPET-Polyester Pellets

rPET is recycled PET (or Polyethylene terephthalate) plastic. PET is it is one of the most common plastics in the world. You have probably seen this plastic in your soda and water bottles that are marked with the PET is originally produced from fossil fuels — typically natural gas and petroleum, but it is one of the easiest plastics to recycle.


Know about rPET

rPET is recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic that is used to make packaging, such as plastic bottles and food containers. After the original PET containers are used by consumers, they are returned via a recycling program to a facility that sorts, cleans, and transforms the plastic into rPET flakes or pellets. The rPET flakes/pellets can then be reused to make new products, such as fiber for clothing and carpets or plastic for food and beverage containers. Converting postconsumer PET into a valuable resource helps the environment because rPET has a lower carbon footprint than virgin PET.

PET plastic is used to make clear, strong, and lightweight food and beverage containers and packaging. PET is 100 percent recyclable and is the most recycled plastic in the United States and worldwide. According to the PET Resin Association (PETRA), more than 1.5 billion pounds of used PET bottles and containers (e.g., beverage bottles and cosmetics containers) are recovered in the United States each year for recycling. You can easily identify PET because it has a #1 in the triangular “chasing arrows” recycling logo, which is usually found on the bottom or side of the container.


What happens after I place my PET bottle in the recycling bin?

When you place PET bottles in a recycling bin, they are collected and transported to a materials recovery facility (MRF), where they are sorted from other materials, baled, and sent to specific PET recycling facilities. At these recycling facilities, the bales are broken and sorted using an automated processor to remove any non-PET materials. The PET is then ground and put through a separation process, often a float/sink tank. The denser PET container material sinks, separating it from the lighter cap and label material.

The PET material is then cleaned and dried. Clean PET flake is then further processed depending on its intended end market. It may become more highly refined PET pellet for new bottles or extruded into PET sheet for clamshells, trays, and cups. Recycled PET is also spun into fiber for carpet, clothing, fiber fill, or other materials.

Can a PET/rPET bottle be recycled over and over or does it degrade over time?

A PET bottle can be recycled over and over again. While it’s true that a breakdown of the polymer chains occurs when the resin goes through multiple heat cycles during the recycling process, which degrades the PET’s intrinsic viscosity (IV) (i.e., a measure of the molecular weight of the polymer that reflects the melting point, crystallinity, and tensile strength of the material), recyclers can use additives to raise PET’s IV.

To meet growing demand from beverage makers for significant amounts of recycled content in their bottles, recyclers use chain extenders to raise PET’s IV. These additives are molecules that attach to the ends of broken polymer chains, reconnect them, and produce the longer chains needed for production of PET bottles.

RPET-Clean Polyester Flakes

RPET-Clean Polyester Flakes

Are bottled water companies using rPET?

Yes. For years, bottled water companies have been voluntarily including rPET in their containers. Many bottled water companies have embraced using rPET packaging, offering their product in containers that are made of 50, 75, or even 100 percent rPET. Beverage Marketing Corporation reports that, for those bottled water companies that use rPET, the average amount of rPET per container went from 3.3 to 18.2 percent between 2008 and 2017–a 452 percent increase.


What other industries use rPET?

The main industries that use rPET include fiber, sheet and film, strapping, and food and beverage. In 2017, 47 percent of all available rPET in the United States was used for fiber products (e.g., carpet, clothes, and shoes), according to the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and NAPCOR’s “Report on Postconsumer PET Container Recycling Activity in 2017.” Food and beverage products were the second-largest users of rPET, at 21 percent.


What are the advantages of both recycled and virgin PET?

ㆍrPET and PET products are completely recyclable.

ㆍrPET and PET are lightweight compared to other packaging, so that helps cut transportation costs, which lowers CO2 emissions.

ㆍrPET and PET bottles are transparent and shatterproof.

ㆍrPET and PET plastics are safe for food and beverage packaging.


Why should you choose rPET?

Although reducing the amount of plastic we as a society use has significant benefits, keeping plastic already produced in circulation is also extremely important. Recycling PET may not solve all our problems, but there are many good reasons to choose recycled PET over virgin PET.

ㆍBy choosing to buy recycled PET, you support the recycling industry and helping to create a market for recycled plastics.

ㆍBuying products from companies that use rPET is like using your power for good. ㆍBy doing so, you are voting with your dollars and supporting businesses that embrace sustainable practices and drive innovation.

ㆍUsing rPET removes the requirement for extracting virgin materials, thus reducing the energy consumption and carbon footprint.

ㆍrPET uses plastic waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill or, worse, polluting the environment. When left in landfills, plastics can take thousands of years to break down. When they do break down, they will tend to break into smaller pieces that can do even more harm if released into the environment.


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