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PET Bottle Recycling

Reducing plastic consumption has been a hot topic all over the news lately. But until we can figure out how to live without plastic completely, we're going to need ways to recycle them. Our landfills are only getting fuller by the minute.

Look at the bottom of a water or soda bottle, what do you see? Depending on the country you live in, you might see a little triangle. This triangle tells us whether a bottle is recyclable or not. The numbers in the middle tell us what kind of plastic they are.But do you know what PET plastic is exactly and what happens in the PET bottle recycling process? Who picks them up and where do they go? Today, we're going to share the plastic bottle recycling process with you. What Is PET Bottle Recycling?

What Is PET Bottle Recycling?

PET, or Polyethylene Terephthalate, is a compound that makes up single-use plastics. PET is what many of our household items are. Everything we see in our supermarkets such as water bottles, milk jugs, and dish detergent bottles contain a certain amount of PET.

PET bottle recycling is the process of extending the life of a single-use plastic bottle. But we cannot recycle all plastics. Some plastic bottles change in chemical properties after a certain amount of time. And the bottles can leak chemicals or grow bacteria, which can make us sick.

Thankfully, we now have the technology to recycle PET plastic and turn them into new things. Things such as carpets, stuffings for toys, life jackets, or even a sweater.

What Happens After You Throw A PET Bottle Out

Every country and every city has its own laws and rules about recycling but the process to recycle PET bottles are more or less the same.

After you throw away a plastic bottle in the recycling bin, the recycling company picks them up. They then bring them to the closest plastic recycling facility.


At the recycling facility, the first thing the workers will do is sort out all the materials. Machines and humans work together to sort and pick out anything that is not recyclable. Afterwards, they'll sort the bottles by types of plastic and colors

Sorting is crucial in the recycling process. Many people do not toss away their trash in the right bins. The sorting process is to make sure nothing unrecyclable gets mixed in and contaminates the rest of the batch.

The type of plastic a bottle is made out of is extremely important. Hint: there is usually a triangle with a number in the center on all bottles. These numbers tell us what kind of plastic they are.


After sorting, a machine called the plastic bottle shredder shreds the plastic bottles into chipped size pieces. This makes the plastic easier to clean.


Once they're small enough, they'll go through a washing stage where each piece is washed with warm soapy water. The goal here is to remove all the labels, all the residues from glue, and sanitize everything.


Once the PET pieces are cleaned and broken down even further into smaller flakes in a machine called the granulator. After that, machines clean them again if needed. At this point, we call these flakes rPET or recycled plastic bottle flakes.


Once all the bottles are sorted and cleaned, testing begins. Each rPET batch is tested to see if they meet food-grade standards. If they pass, the can be used to make bottles again or other types of food containers. Sometimes they are also turned straws or takeout food containers.

If the flakes do not meet food-grade standards, the company sells them to factories in other countries. Once there, they will turn into everyday household items such as welcome mats, pillow stuffing, or clothes.

What Happens to Bottles We Cannot Recycle?

Not all plastic bottles can be recycled. Some have to go to different recycling centers with more advanced recycling technologies. Some cannot be recycled at all.

One of the newer ways to recycle is by using heat compression. Heat compression is a process that takes different types of plastic and mixes them together. When mixed, they'll create an entirely new plastic used to make other things.Another way to recycle plastic is called "Monomer." This process manipulates the molecular structure of plastic to create a new type of material.The downside of these more advanced techniques for recycling is that they are more expensive. Not all countries are able to afford them at this time or feel they are worth it.Other types of plastic bottles that cannot be recycled will either go to the landfill or sold to countries who can recycle them.

Current State of Plastic Recycling

Over the years, recycling education has improved for the public. But, there are still some challenges to getting people to recycle plastic.

The United States is one of the biggest consumers of plastic. Yet, only ten states today have the Bottle Bill. The Bottle Bill is a law that encourages people to return their bottles to recycling back for money.

The good news, however, is there are a handful of companies who are taking the initiative to use more recycled plastic bottles. Resource Natural Spring Water is a company that pledged to make bottled waters out of 100 percent rPET.

To combat this problem, countries like Germany adopted the producer responsibility (EPR). EPR is a government policy that requires the producers of PET products to recycle their goods. This places the responsibility on the producer instead of the consumer.

Better Solutions

When that's all said and done, we've certainly come a long way since the world first introduced disposable soda bottles in 1975.

Technology is only becoming better from here. Each day, we're finding new ways to reuse recycled materials. If every piece of plastic has a lifespan of 500 years, then for sure, we can find better uses for them than sitting around. If scientists can find a way to recycle all our plastic, imagine how much less waste we would have in our landfills.

If you would like to learn more about recycling technology or heat treatment solutions, please visit our website for more.

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