Frequently Asked Questions - Environment

It will stay there, inert, similar to glass.  It will not degrade biologically; one of the reasons it is such a good choice for packaging foods is its resistance to attack by microorganisms.  It will be crushed flat without fragmenting (no shards) and occupy less space that the more rigid glass.  It is resistant to the chemical species found in landfills and will not give rise to any harmful leachates.  Indeed, these very properties are utilized in stabilisation of landfills and processed baled PET bottles have been used for stabilisation of the foundations for road works.
 

PET will burn like paper, wood, and coal.  Since it is very difficult to ignite and usually melts away from any flame sources, accidental ignition is unlikely.  In this respect, it is similar to most natural organic materials.  It has the same calorific value as soft coal (22-23 MJ/kg) and this energy can be very efficiently recovered in up-to-date 'Waste to Energy' power generation facilities.  Residues (ash) are measured in parts per million and can be disposed of with normal fuel ash.  The complete combustion gases are carbon dioxide and water, the respiration gases of plants and animals.  In controlled incineration, air emissions are contained below regulatory limits.
 

This is a frequent question that is almost impossible to answer.  When looking at environmental criteria - unless each effect is categorised, classified, and ranked in order of societal importance - a clear answer cannot be given.  For example, which is the most important - reduction of global warming gases, fossil fuel depletion rates, consumption of water, emissions to water courses, air emissions, eutrophication of waterways, reduction of ozone depleting gases, or other parameters?
An answer to this question is that there is no clear consensus on ranking.  Even environmental NGOs have no unambiguous priorities.  Each parameter is usually ranked differently; there is no solution that is best for every aspect.However, overall reductions in the listed aspects are generally beneficial.  PET, because of its lightweight and general toughness, requires less packaging material per unit of packaged product, which, in general, reduces the overall environmental burdens.

PET is a remarkably energy-efficient packaging material.  First of all, it's highly recyclable.  Although the feedstocks for PET are crude oil and natural gas, the environmental impact of PET is very favourable in comparison to glass, aluminium and other container materials.  Because PET is so strong yet light in weight, it allows more product to be delivered with less packaging, less weight and less fuel are required for transportation.  Life cycle studies of PET have consistently shown it to be a highly sustainable material with a positive environmental profile.

Not specifically, although several LCA comparisons show excellent environmental benefits from the use of PET.  It is important to ensure that the material is 'fit for the purpose' and can be washed and cleansed adequately, in order to make its recycling easier.  Developments in PET materials, improvements in bottle manufacturing technology and lower temperature sterilisation techniques ensure that PET is the preferred material for such a demanding task, as at the same time it confers the benefits of light weight and low material usage.  This results directly in raw material and energy savings contributing to better environmental performance and to lower production costs.

Yes, it is.  Although glass has been recycled virtually continuously since its invention and its recycle is a well-established industry, PET can be collected in the same way and recycled by washing and remelting in a similar manner to glass.  Recycling of PET bottles is now a common practice in most industrialised countries.  However, because PET can be used for a variety of other applications it is not always recycled into new bottles.  Melting and forming fibre products is the historic choice for the recycled PET material, as these markets are well developed.  Sheets and strapping tapes are other considerable outlets for recycled PET.There are many technologies to allow purification of recycled PET to a level that is more than satisfactory for use in food grade applications.  In Europe these processes and their raw material sourcing must be approved by the EC on EFSA’s recommendation and are subject to strict monitoring.The selection of the most appropriate outlet for recycled PET must be done on a case by case basis, by looking at both the environmental impact and the economics of each envisaged application.

Bottles, jars and other containers made of PET can be collected and recycled into a wealth of products.  PET can be recycled into new PET bottles and containers, carpet and clothing, industrial strapping, rope, upholstery fabrics, boat sails, automotive parts, fibrefill for winter jackets and sleeping bags, construction materials, and many other items.For more information on PET recycling go to www.petcore.org