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PET

Plastic bottles are a huge problem in 21st century America. For example, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp, in 1976, the average U.S. citizen drank just 1.6 gallons of bottled water. By 2006 this had leapt to a massive 28.3 gallons and it’s rising still. And it’s not just plastic water bottles; any beverage, be it Coke, Juice, various oils for use in automobiles, there’s a million and one products which come in plastic bottles. Plastic lids, yogurt tubs, shampoo bottles and other cosmetic containers all come under the title of ‘plastic bottles.’

Can they be recycled?

Many types of plastic bottles can be recycled, but sadly only around 27% of them actually are. Back in 1988, a system was introduced whereby plastics were marked with a code so that it was easy for the consumer to see if the product was suitable to be recycled. However, although this code may be easy for those involved in the plastics industry to understand, it is not clear to the every-day consumer. The various plastic bottles and packaging are referred to as PET – which is short for polyethylene terephthalate, the plastic resin used to make the bottles.

All towns and cities have recycling centers where you can take plastic bottles, and this is probably the best place to get rid of them. If you are unsure about where your local recycling center is, visit www.earth911.com and enter your zip code to find the nearest to you.

What are the possibilities for the recycled material?

Plastic bottles (PET) are generally recycled into fibers which are then used in the production of carpets and textiles. The recycling of plastic bottles in the U.S. has the capacity to be used to a far greater extent; in fact demand is higher than the amount currently produced.

It is very possible that in the future recycled plastic bottles will also be used to make waterproof products such as shipping containers or even fleece clothing.

There have been many health scares recently about the danger of re-using plastic water bottles or placing them in the freezer. There is growing medical evidence to support a very slight risk to health by re-using bottles for beverages, and they are only intended for single use. However, there is no risk of placing them in the freezer.

But what about the resources used in the recycling process?

Yes, it uses up energy to recycle plastics, but the main problem is that plastic used for bottles and other packaging is made from non-renewable sources. Most are made from natural gas – the same as the gas used in your home for heating and cooking. The biggest thing all of us can do is to cut down on our use of plastic bottles, although this is very hard to do, seeing as most products come packaged this way.

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