Human beings throw away billions of plastic water and beverage bottles every year. Those bottles are made from a material known as polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The material is a polyester and one of the most widely recycled plastics in the world. And still, we only recycle a fraction of the PET we generate.
The thing about PET is that it is so easy to work with. In Tennessee, Seraphim Plastics accepts PET waste from seven different states. They recycle it and sell the repurposed material to companies that manufacture all sorts of products. So, what can manufacturers use recycled plastic bottles for? Below are some of the more interesting uses.
Believe it or not, some of the clothing in your closet might be plastic. Don’t freak out, though. You wouldn’t have known had you not read this article. You would never know because the clothing doesn’t feel like plastic. It feels no different than polyester, cotton, or any other non-plastic material.
So how do they do it? They turn recycled PET into small fibers by grinding it into a flaky material and then spinning the flakes. The resulting fibers are then spun together to create threads. Finally, the threads are woven into fabrics that can be transformed into everything from pants to shirts and jackets.
PET is an excellent material for waterproof outdoor garments for hikers and campers. After all, plastic repels water quite nicely. It also handles impact shock, making it a good choice for athletic shoes.
In recent years, a growing number of startups have begun selling sustainable sunglasses made from recycled water bottles. The bottles are ground into flake, melted and transformed into pellets, and then turned into eyewear frames via injection molding. The resulting frames are every bit as strong as their acetate counterparts. Visually speaking, you cannot tell the difference either. The best thing about it is that recycled PET is cheap. Companies can make very affordable sunglasses without sacrificing style or fashion.
Those same fibers that can be woven into fabrics can also be woven to create carpets. If your home has a synthetic carpet that is stain resistant and guaranteed not to fade, there is a good chance it is made from a PET thread. PET threads are lightweight, strong, and resistant to all sorts of materials. Thus, they are ideal for carpet manufacturing.
There are lots of other uses for recycled PET, but perhaps the most intriguing use is in construction. Architects have demonstrated that used water bottles can be repurposed to build buildings. Best of all, the bottles do not even have to be collected, shredded, and reconstituted. They can be used as-is.
If you’re not sure this is possible, check out a Taiwanese exhibition hall that opened in 2015. The building’s facade was made with 1.5 million PET bottles. The bottles were chosen in order to raise awareness about plastic recycling.
Needless to say that the building looks stunning. From the pictures, you might not even recognize the water bottles. Even so, there they are. The building is lightweight, breathable, and able to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes. That is impressive.
There are many more ways entrepreneurs are putting recycled water bottles to use. There isn’t enough space in a single post to detail them all. Here’s the point: we don’t have to keep throwing plastic water bottles into the trash. PET is one of the most economically viable plastics to recycle. There is money to be made in it, which is why so many companies are now doing it.