PET and rPET: From Water Bottles to Boardshorts

plastic water bottle

Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is one of the most used and versatile materials. It is known as Plastic #1 and is found in everyday items such as soft drink and water bottles and plastic food containers.

What is PET?

PET is a strong, lightweight plastic that resists leaching chemicals into food or liquid stored within it. It is also part of the polyester family and can be used for fibers and fabrics. In addition, PET is a material that can easily be recycled and is consequently the most recycled plastic.

What is rPET?

When PET is collected, sorted, and recycled, it is ground up into flakes or made into pellets. This recycled polyethylene terephthalate, or rPET, is a plastic that can be used to make similar products as PET – but requires a lot less energy. PET requires more energy to create because it requires extracting oil, transporting it, refining it and turn it into pellets. rPET just requires recycled PET to be melted down and transformed into pellets. This makes it more costs effective and gives it a lower carbon footprint.

What Can Be Done With rPET?

rPET flakes and pellets are sold and used to make a wide range of products including more plastics and fabrics. Examples include packaging containers, carpets, clothing, blankets, backpacks, tote bags, car parts, insulation, and construction materials.

rPET is lightweight, quick drying and durable – making it a top contender for the manufacture of shoes, boardshorts and winter gear. Many companies now pride themselves on finding more sustainable ways of producing their products and are relying on this recycled plastic to meet their sustainability goals.

How Great is rPET?

Sure, it is great that we can confidently recycle Plastic #1 and create new products from it. But, at the end of the day, it is still plastic. Unlike glass and aluminum, PET is not infinitely recyclable, and most products made out of rPET can’t be recycled at all.

Even as PET becomes rPET and gets spun into yarn, transformed into fiber and woven into the fabric of our favorite jacket, it still releases microplastics into our water system every time it is washed. Microplastics end up in lakes or oceans and harm the animals that inhabit them. These plastics also find their way into our bodies through the food and water we consume.

The recycling process also requires energy and releases carbon emissions that contribute to environmental degradation. So, rather than solely relying on recycling, the best way for us to be conscious of our environmental impact is to avoid using single-use plastics, and then to properly recycle them whenever possible.