RECYCLING PET BOTTLES – A brief introduction

By now you are probably aware that waste needs to be segregated into wet, dry, rejects and e-Waste. You know that your segregated dry waste is then recycled. But you are probably wondering what is recycling process is. How is it done? How is it useful?  Read on to learn the basics as Saahas Program Coordinator Ilene Babu takes you through the entire process.

Recycling is the process of converting waste into reusable products (1).  PET Bottles come under the category of dry waste and are one of the largest sources of plastic waste that is sent to landfills. PET stands for Polyethylene terephthalate and is a grade of plastic suitable for packaging food products (3). PET Bottles can be by identified by the number 1 printed inside the recycling symbol at the bottom of each bottle.

PET Bottles come under the category of dry waste and are one of the largest sources of plastic waste that is sent to landfills. They are the ubiquitous plastic bottles that we take for granted in our daily life. Because of the sheer quantities of PET bottles used today to package everything from water to soft-drinks to cooking oil, it is important to be conscious of the quantity of PET bottles.

Steps used for recycling Pet bottles:

  1. Bottles are de-baled and then sieved in a trommel which spins them and shakes off dirt and some of the caps. A magnet removes ferrous metals and an electrical current gets rid of other metals such as aluminium.
  2. Optical sorter shines a beam of light at the bottles and sensors determine whether they are PET or other grades of plastic
  3. Team of manual checkers carries out another sort
  4. The sorted bottles are ground into flakes
  5. The flakes are hot washed for an hour
  6. PET is decontaminated by covering the flakes with caustic soda and then putting them into a kiln where the chemical crystallizes and peels away the top layer of the polymer. It is then melted, sieved and turned into pellets.(2)          

Some of the advantages of recycling PET bottles include:

  • It helps in conserving non-renewable resources
  • Protects environment by reusing old plastic and avoiding use of virgin material
  • Reduces waste going to landfills

Are you ready to be the change agents to create a better future? If yes, here are a few simple steps you can follow:

  1. Segregate waste at source
  2. Reduce the quantity of PET bottles you buy by carrying your own bottle of water
  3. When you cannot avoid it, make sure it is segregated and sent for recycling
  4. Start a local collection drive in your neighbourhood to ensure PET bottles do not end up at a landfill

Sources:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PET_bottle_recycling
  2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7470662.stm#text
  3. http://www.kenplas.com/project/pet/
  4. http://web.archive.org/web/20100309112752/http://wavepolymertechnology.com/PROCESSING.aspx
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