Frequently Asked Questions

This page provides help with the most common questions about PET and CPME. You can also search the whole of our site using the box at the top right of this page.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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 is the most commonly used acronym for the polymer polyethylene terephthalate. PET is the most common form of polymer in the "polyester" polymer family. It is heated and shaped into plastic bottles, trays and containers for packaging foods and beverages, personal care products, and many other consumer products. 

PET plastic containers are identified by the #1 recycling code -- the triangular "chasing arrows" symbol with the number 1 in the centre and the acronym PET underneath. The recycling symbol can usually be found on the label or moulded into the bottom or side of the container or bottle. Only PET carries the #1 identification code.

When an organic acid is mixed with an organic base it makes something called an ester.  PET is made with an organic acid - terephthalic acid - and  a base - ethylene glycol.  When we make plastics we use a substance called a monomer and when two monomers react with each other they form a poly(mono)mer, or polymer for short.  So an ester reacting with an ester becomes known as a polyester. When PET is used for fibre or fabric applications, it is usually referred to as "polyester". When PET is used for container and packaging applications, it is typically called "PET" or "PET resin."

No, most [88%] of the oil extracted from the earth is used as a fuel for transport systems, heating appliances or for generation of electricity. The amount used for chemicals and plastics is small in comparison. PET used less than 0.15% of the world’s oil resources in 1996.  Of course, because we recycle PET we do not lose the small amount of oil used to make PET, we just keep using it over and over again.It must be remembered that oil is only a carbon source and that PET is also made using sugar cane waste (as a feedstock for the ethylene glycol).  There are many more materials using carbon sources that are not directly called oil.  Although we might move away from oil we shall always need a carbon source for many applications.

PET is the one plastic which has the correct balance of properties ideally suited for packaging carbonated (fizzy) drinks like colas and lemonades. All plastics are porous to some degree and will allow gasses to pass through the structure given sufficient time.  PET will retain sufficient carbon dioxide in a beverage bottle to keep the drink fresh within the normal shelf life of the product, which is not true for other widely available plastics. The same property also keeps oxygen outside the container and prevents spoilage from oxidation.

Glass has proved an outstanding material for packaging liquids for well over 1000 years. However, in today's modern world the demand for safer, more environmentally sustainable and cost effective packages that can be easily transported  led to the development and growth in the use of PET bottles. Glass is environmentally sustainable for smaller sized specialist bottles, but when filled with carbonated drinks in containers over 1.0 litres - PET is the safest and most preferred lightweight and unbreakable container.

Transport distances are also now growing as consumers request specialised drinks from outside their own local boundaries. PET offers substantial savings in transport fuel costs, reduced carbon footprint and less wastage through breakage over the glass equivalent.

Virtually all plastic cola and sparkling mineral water bottles are made from PET. Usually the PET container is marked with an identification symbol in the form of three arrows making a triangular shape, a number 1 in the centre of the triangle and the acronym PET under the base of the triangle. The symbol can be found either printed on the label or moulded on the base or shoulder of the bottle.

Yes it can.  Some PET is collected, washed free of contaminants and reclaimed in a similar manner by remelting and making new bottles and containers. However, most of the PET collected is still recycled back into polyester fibres for textile materials, for the filling of duvets and similar bedding, in sports garments and shoes, and indoor and outdoor wear, furnishing textiles, insulation, belts and webbing, filters and geotextiles. [See under recycling].

Simply comparing manufacture of a glass and a PET bottle is misleading, it is necessary to compare what they are being used for, both are used to deliver drinks or liquids to the consumer and when compared on resources used to deliver one litre of beverage the situation is rather different. In this respect comparative studies show the PET bottle competes very well indeed, especially in the larger sizes and over longer transport distances.The environmental impact analysis over the full life cycle of the various packaging alternatives (LCA) shows that in most uses PET has very favourable results compared to the other options.

The major use for PET packaging is soft drinks, under normal European conditions a soft drink packaged in PET will remain fresh for up to nine months or more. If it is kept in refrigerator it will keep fresh for a longer period. This is long enough lifetime for the delivery cycles used for soft drinks.

Yes, if the customer wants this. Dairy products normally have very short shelf lives and are sold and consumed within a few days. Carbon dioxide losses are not relevant and oxygen sensitivity is less important here which allows many other materials to be used which also have good resistance to attack by bacteria. In this application the food manufacturer will use the most appropriate package for his specific product.Milk really needs light (ultraviolet and visible rays) protection to preserve integrity of nutrition and flavour properties, and today there are already many milk bottles based on PET on the shelves, even for those applications requiring longest shelf life (UHT milk).  PET not only meets packaging functional requirements for milk, but has also opened new markets to many milk producers through the excellent consumer acceptance of milk filled in PET bottles.

Again, this depends on the shelf life requirements. Many brewers package beers in short life applications for uses such as at football games where there is a need to remove glass for very obvious safety reasons.  PET grades used for soft drinks do not quite have the longer life resistance to oxygen ingress to protect against deterioration in taste that is demanded by the brewers.  New  PET developments in co-injection technology and special monolayer polymers are delivering a highly improved oxygen barrier more suitable for these applications.   With this new advantage, plus its light weight and strength, PET is now being used to package and transport beer.

The PET grades used for 'ovenable' trays have the same basic chemical formula as ordinary PET but it has been specially heat treated during the container manufacturing process to turn it opaque milky white. In this form it has a much higher temperature resistance and is can be heated up to 220 degrees centigrade which is high enough for reheating pre-cooked foods.