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Polyethylene terephthalate, better known as PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, is made from ethylene and paraxylene. It is one of the synthetic materials called polyester.

Characteristics of PET plastic

  • It is a linear thermoplastic, is transparent (high degree of crystallinity) and is a very hard material.
  • It is resistant to wear and tear and to chemical productsimpact, breakage and fire.

It can be found in film, bottles and packaging as it can be in contact with food and beverages and preserves their aroma and flavour. It is also used to replace natural fibres such as linen or cotton (fabric).

It was produced in 1941 by scientists Whinfield and Dickson for the manufacture of fibres. After 1946 it started to be used industrially as a fibre and is still used today as a textile. A few years later it was used for food packaging. As it is easy to produce bottles with this material, it started to be used in the manufacture of beverage containers.

Applications and uses

Nowadays, there are more and more fields in which PET is used. The most important applications are the following:

  • The use in packaging: containers have evolved rapidly and it is used for both normal and hot filling. It is used for carbonated beverages, canned food, cosmetics…
  • Use in the electro-electronic segment: it has various films and applications: telecommunications, electronic devices ….
  • Use in fibres: in the textile industry it is used to make fabrics and garments.

PET plastic recycling

PET is 100% recyclable and easy to recycle. If plastic is recycled and reused as many times as possible, there would be no need to produce more plastic. This would not only reduce energy consumption in the production of the material, but also reduce the amount of waste in landfills.

There are different ways to recycle PET:

  • Mechanical recycling: it is washed and the material is separated from pollutants. It then goes through a dryer and is stored until the material is homogenised and shredded. This is done in several stages. Once this is done, it is ready to re-enter the production cycle.
  • Chemical recycling: there are several processes, the best known of which are methanolysis and glycolysis. PET is broken down and its component molecules are separated. They are then used to make PET again.
  • Energy recycling: a method of recycling energy from plastic waste. PET containers are burned and the heat is used for another process or to produce electricity.

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