No-one in their daily life within a period of 10 minutes isn’t touching something that is made of plastic.
It’s used in everything from the keyboard or pen you are using, to your glasses or contact lenses, the Teflon on your frying pan, and the banknotes in your wallet. It’s in your clothes, phone, car, mattress, and TV.
But for all the benefits plastic has given us, disposing of products — particularly those designed to be used only once, such as packaging — has become a major environmental issue.
The ocean is full of plastic waste because humans have disposed of carelessly.
So how big is the problem?
According to the Plastics Oceans Foundation “More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year.”
The proliferation of plastic products in the last 70 years or so has been extraordinary. We are now producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year, half of which is for single use. More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year.
Plastic is cheap and incredibly versatile with properties that make it ideal for many applications. However, these qualities have also resulted in it becoming an environmental issue. We have developed a “disposable” lifestyle and estimates are that around 50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away.
What is PET?
PET, which stands for polyethylene terephthalate, is a form of polyester (just like the clothing fabric).PET, which stands for polyethylene terephthalate, is a form of polyester (just like the clothing fabric). It is extruded or molded into plastic bottles and containers for packaging foods and beverages, personal care products, and many other consumer products.
PET is a highly valued packaging material because it is strong yet lightweight, non-reactive, economical, and shatterproof. PET’s safety for food, beverage, personal care, pharmaceutical and medical applications is recognized by health authorities around the world.
PET containers are popular for packaging sodas, water, juices, salad dressings, cooking oil, peanut butter, shampoo, liquid hand soap, mouthwash, pharmaceuticals, even tennis balls. Virtually all single-serving and 2-liter bottles of carbonated soft drinks and water sold in the U.S. are made from PET. Special grades of PET are used for carry-home prepared food containers that can be warmed in the oven.
PET is 100% recyclable and highly sustainable. It can be recovered and recycled again and again –– back into containers for foods, beverages and personal care products – or into carpet and clothing fibers, automotive parts, construction materials, industrial strapping or other packaging materials.
In addition, PET is a remarkably energy-efficient packaging material, with an environmental impact that compares very favorably to glass, aluminum and other container materials. Although PET’s feedstocks are derived from crude oil and natural gas, approximately 40% of that energy is trapped within the PET polymer for recapture and reuse every time PET is recycled.
And because PET is very strong yet lightweight, it allows more product to be delivered with less packaging, less weight and less fuel for transport. These factors help explain why life cycle studies of PET have consistently shown it to be a highly sustainable material with a positive environmental profile.
What happens to PET bottles and containers that aren’t recycled and end up in landfills?
Because PET is resistant to attack by micro-organisms and won’t biologically degrade, PET bottles and containers that find their way to the landfill remain inert and pose no risk of leaching or contaminating groundwater. PET bottles and containers are thin walled and can be easily crushed flat, so they take up relatively little landfill space. According to the EPA, only 1% of U.S. municipal solid waste is attributed to PET containers.