What is RPET and how does it work?
RPET, the abbreviation of recycled polyethylene tetraphyte is commonly used. We'll be explaining PET a little more below. But for now, know that PET is the fourth most widely used plastic resin in the world. PET can be found in everything from clothing and food packaging. If you see the term "RPET", it means that the PET used in the product should have come from a previously-used source.
What is polyethylene Tetraphyte?
To be clear, each plastic you've ever used was made using a particular polymer. PVC milk bottles will be made with a different material than PET water bottles.
PET is made from crude oils. The environment is severely affected by the process of extracting crude oils from the ground. To make molten PET, you need to take an alcohol called Ethylene glycol and mix it with terephthalic acids. Esterification occurs when both products are bonded together, creating PET, a long-chain polymer.
We choose polymers based upon how the final product will perform. PET is a thermoplastic. This means that it can be easily bent to the desired shape by heating it, and then it will retain its strength once it cools off. PET is light-weight, nontoxic and extremely durable. This is why it is the preferred packaging material for the food and beverage industry.
Are PETs used only for packaging?
No. The plastic bottle industry is the largest user of PET in the world at 30%. However, this is not the only case. Although PET is commonly referred to as polyester, it's likely that many clothes in your wardrobe are made from PET. The liquid is not allowed to mold to the container it is being created. Instead, it is passed through a spinnerate (almost a shower head) and formed long strands. These strands can be woven together to make a lightweight, durable fabric. Polyester is the most used man-made fiber in the textile industry. Polyester is easier to produce than cotton, and it is less susceptible to price fluctuations due to weather conditions. It's very likely that the garment you are currently wearing contains polyester. Polyester is used extensively in the manufacture of tents and conveyor belts. Polyester is able to handle almost anything that needs lightweight and durable.
PET's good and bad points
PET has many advantages, including being durable and versatile as well as being cheaper than other options. PET can be recycled, just like other plastics. In the UK, only 3% were recycled from PET bottles in 2001. That number rose to 60% in 2014 due to drink manufacturers switching to PET bottles wherever possible, and more national recycling initiatives making it easier to recycle.
PET has one of its greatest weaknesses. PET is such a strong compound that it takes 700 years to degrade into soil. Although PET recycling has seen significant improvements over the past ten year, more needs to be done. Many parts of the globe already have mountains as large as small cities, filled with only PET plastic. We continue to add to these landfills each day due to our heavy use of PET.
PET plastic is a very durable compound. It takes 700 years for PET plastic to be broken down if it ends up in landfill. There are parts of the globe that have mountains as large as small cities, but they are all made of PET plastic.
So, how can RPET solve the plastic pollution problem in our world?
RPET basically takes the plastic already created (usually plastic bottles) and breaks it down into small flakes. The PET in the core of each bottle is separated by melting these flakes. The PET can be used to make everything from sweaters to other plastic bottles. This PET is 50% more energy-efficient than making PET from scratch. Additionally, existing bottles can be used to make PET, which means that they don't end in landfill. This allows us to leave the world as it is. Instead than extracting the key ingredient from crude oil, which can be extremely destructive, we make use of an abundance of the product that could otherwise have contributed directly to landfill.