Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

Meet the Beverage-Bottle-Rockstar: PET

Recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) is one of the most used and most recycled plastics. As an extremely durable and versatile material, recycled PET applications go far beyond the PET-bottle.

Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (Recycled PET or R-PET) used to produce new R-PET bottles

Recent PET recyclates

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Recycled PET applications

What products can be made of recycled PET?

R-PET (recycled PET) applications: car’s dashboard produced from R-PET with increased recycled content

Due to the variety of its material properties, virgin PET represents a highly valuable plastic material and is widely used, for example for beverage bottles. Similarly, recycled PET may be used for many applications such as food packaging and non-food packaging, automotive parts, technical and textile fibres such as clothing, carpets and bedding. Also the building industry is making use of PET regrind for example as isolation.

Depending on the source and quality, recycled PET is available in food-grade and non-food grades. Besides the below-mentioned material properties of R-PET, the purification efficiency of the used PET recycling technology is essential in this case.

The food-grade quality of the recycled PET (food grade R-PET) is ensured by a so-called “challenge test”, which assesses the efficiency of a recycling technology to extract contaminations in the input material to a concentration which does not pose a risk to human health. The challenge test on PET recyclates is evaluated by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) or U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The main applications of non-food recycled PET grades are fibres for textiles and packaging.

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R-PET material properties

What are the benefits and drawbacks of recycled PET?

R-PET (recycled PET) as PET regrind and PET regranules (PET recyclates) in the form of PET reprocessed pellets (repro PET)

PET in its natural state is colourless but the colour and tone of R-PET can be easily matched according to the desired application and product. The relevant colour masterbatches for R-PET material are available on cirplus. Depending on the source of the recycled PET, both colourless as well as coloured PET regrinds are available. Furthermore, PET is a relatively heavy polymer with a density of 1.37 g / cm³. However, since R-PET granules can be processed with thin walls, it appears very lightweight.

The molecular structure of recycled PET varies depending on the application, i.e. R-PET is available in semi-crystalline or amorphous (transparent) form. Moreover, R-PET granules are available in different intrinsic viscosity (IV) values and rigidity degrees. Next to a good gas barrier, recycled PET also has a fair moisture barrier.

Due to its molecular structure as well as the chemical composition, recycled PET offers very stable crystallization, thermal and mechanical properties, which are often comparable with those of virgin PET. To sum up, PET recyclates, PET regrind and R-PET granules, often also called repro PET pellets, are of very high material quality and can easily replace the virgin counterpart.

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PET waste feedstock

Which sources can be used for PET recycling?

R-PET (recycled PET) as PET scrap or PET waste material as shredded PET and PET flakes for PET recycling 

PET waste feedstock is often referred to as PET scrap. Post-consumer PET bottles or PCR PET bottles serve as the number one feedstock for PET plastic recycling and are commonly found under the names PET bottle scrap or PET bottle waste. Furthermore, PET feedstock can be found in post-consumer PET food packaging or non-food packaging such as disposal containers for food or drinks as well as containers for cosmetics and detergents.

Similarly, the post-industrial PET feedstock represents packaging, foils or production leftovers. Waste management systems enable effective collection, sorting and recycling of PET. Therefore, PET is one of the most commonly available as well as highly demanded recycled plastics. Usually, PET recyclate is available as PET scrap pressed in bales, shredded PET, R-PET flakes or PET regrind.

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The content of this page has been created in collaboration with independent experts:
Dr. Madina Shamsuyeva (Head of Department Plastics recycling and Technology, Plastics analytics at the IKK - Institute for Plastics and Circular Economy of the Leibniz University Hanover)
Dr. Uwe Zander (Co-owner of Voelpker Wax Academy GmbH with more than 30 years experience in the plastic processing industry, with a focus on compounding engineering plastics)