Although it’s been around a little while now, rPET is slipping into mainstream promotional merchandise like Greta into a pair of Birkenstocks.
Let’s start by learning what PET is.
It’s an abbreviation for the much longer (much less fun) term, polyethylene terephthalate; a polymer of ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid.
Huh? PET is the most common type of plastic. Take crude oil and natural gas, throw some science at it and the result is fibre for textiles or plastic for containers.
Remember that sweaty PE kit? Or sliding on your knees in your school trousers and melting holes in them?! All polyester – the common name for PET fabric.
In its solid form, PET is used to hold anything from peanut butter to cleaning solution, mouthwash, and medication. All those disposable water bottles – PET. Chances are, most plastic containers in your house are made of this very common plastic!
All this pre and post-consumer waste PET is then collected, processed and turned into rPET. Or Recycled PET. The resulting product is indistinguishable from its virgin counterpart.
Plastics have been made out to be the baddie. But use of plastic for the right applications should not be ruled out. In fact, when used in the right way it can be far more eco friendly than other “sweet-heart” materials.
PET is easy to recycle. It’s commonly accepted in recycling centres. Just look for the #1 recycling label. Recycling plastics reduces the amount of plastic that ends up in landfill and the ocean. It also takes up to 75% less energy to recycle PET than its virgin alternative.
But, rPET is still plastic. Don’t be greenwashed into thinking by using it you’ll be top of David Attenborough’s Christmas card list. It will be around forever.
Plastic should NEVER, ever end up in landfill intentionally. At very least, It should go for energy recovery. In layman’s terms, burn it to make heat. (There is a bit more to it than that!)
Once, inevitably, some does sneak into landfill it will take thousands of years to break down and can leach toxic chemicals into the groundwater.
Microfibers or micro plastics are tiny fibres that cause big problems. Once they find their way into the water they pollute the environment, are ingested by animals and ultimately can be consumed by humans. Mmmm yummy.
Do you research, ask questions, consult our professionals, don’t be green-washed, don’t make snap decisions based on current media scaremongering.
Consider the entire life of the item from raw-material to disposal.
Ask yourself, is a short-life “eco” product flown in from China really better than something infinitely reusable, made of plastic, in Birmingham?
It all comes back to knowing your stuff and most importantly knowing what’s best for you and your objectives.