What is your favourite pet?
A dog, a cat, a rabbit, a bird or rather a snake? I like animals too. I also like eating steaks, chicken-nuggets or fresh fish with a delicious side dish and in addition something sparkling to drink. And now we had touched the big point. A pet is not only a cute animal. If you spell pet in capital letters you get it: PET. This is more than 3 letters. They stand for an exciting material which is more linked with our life, than we expect. PET or exactly “Polyethylene terephthalate“ is in charge of giving the possibility to transport almost every sparkling and non-sparkling drink in an easy way – with the PET bottle.
But what happens with the PET bottle when the last drop has left it?
First and worst: you can throw it away and hope that our planet knows how to handle with the waste you made.
Second and better: you can collect them and give it into the rubbish bin. If you are living in a country like Germany, Japan or others which take care of the waste disposal, it will be burned and energy will be extracted from it. If you do not live in countries like that, your PET bottle will get into the sea or to a large waste disposal site and in a few thousand years the environment will deal with it after soil and water has been polluted.
Third: in the best way you gave your “pet” into the animal shelter called bottle collection machine. In this - and only this way - you have done everything right with your “pet”. Did you know that PET makes up more than 30% of packaging worldwide? The potential to save raw materials by recycling is huge.
Now a journey begins and I will take you on. Please fasten your seat belt! We are entering the unique and marvellous PET-Marry-Go-Round called PET recycling cycle. You remember: The meal was delicious and the sparkling drink was really good and now the bottle is disappearing in the hole in the front of the bottle collection machine. You recognized some wired noise and smells and for you that was it.
The PET is about to be reborn.
The crushed plastic is collected with other recyclable materials and taken to the sorting machines. In various steps our waste is separated in the different types of plastics and colours. Huge automated systems can create a sorting purity of around 95 %. Our PET bottle is now in one of the pressed big bales and on the way to the next recycling step. A shredder waits for the pre-sorted material for shredding it into small pieces called flakes. Next the remained metals and labels will be worked out. That sorted flakes will be washed in a bath auf lye, then the other plastics, e.g., the bottle caps which are made from Polypropylene (“PP”), were sorted out in a water bath. PET is heavier as water and sinks to the ground, PP is lighter as water and swims on the top. Afterwards the materials will be dried, again checked and freed from last foreign substances.
The result: PET flakes at a purity level over 99 % and the possibility to use it in the food industry. But not as flakes.
Therefore, the flakes will be melt and pressed through big extruders. The viscous material is processed into granules and then crystallised. A solid stater finished that process step and the PET granules are ready to became a preform. For a PET bottle the preform looks like a test tube with a screw cap. The small preforms, which can be easily transported and stored, are brought to the beverage filling plants. They are heated and expanded in two stages and then are prepared for the filling of drinks and holding on pressures over 8 bars. And here ends the first round in the Recycling-Marry-Go-Round. A freshly filled PET bottle is born and ready for delivery.
Sparkling or non-sparkling, you could choose what you want, when you buy your next PET bottle in the supermarket. And do not forget feeding the collection machine with empty PET bottles. It is good for the planet and the recycling cycle could work only with your help. Round for round for round.
I will be honest with you. Making the preform is the key point for the recycling cycle. It will be perfect if 100% recycled PET granules are used. It is possible, but only a few companies master the tricky process. Nowadays the recycled PET has a median share of around 30% +/- 10% when it is used. That is better than nothing, but it is still not a real cycle. And on the other hand, the recycled PET is also processed to fibre for clothes or other textiles. This PET had left the cycle and will ended in the thermal recycling after its usage.
What can Triangular do for a better living? We have on our platform the recycling industry as well as chemicals, minerals, food or pharma industry. It is possible to get in touch with system owners, experts or material owners who may want to cooperate with you and may share the same vision. Working together in a sustainable way with benefits for all including the environment and all living creatures in it.
I like great materials and sustainable production methods as well as I like good food and of course pets!