Why Recycled PET Is Better for the Planet—and Business—than Virgin Plastic

24 Nov.,2022

 

Working from home during the height of the pandemic and not being able to go out to eat, I found myself ordering carryout meals on a far too regular basis. I had valid excuses. My job at Evergreen keeps me very busy. My cooking skills had gotten rusty. And lastly, it was just a whole lot easier to order in food.

This led to a dilemma. The Sherry house has since  amassed a stockpile of plastic food containers. Apparently, we aren’t alone. A story published by Plastics News in August 2021 revealed that 62% of Americans consider themselves plastic hoarders.

The other, more interesting byproduct of the pandemic is that it caused consumers to become much more curious about their packaging and what it’s made of. According to Trivium Packaging’s 2021 Global Buying Green Report, two-thirds (67%) of consumers consider it important that the products they buy are in recyclable packaging. More than half (54%) take sustainable packaging into consideration when selecting a product. Consumers 44 years and younger are leading the charge. A full 83% report a willingness to pay more for sustainable packaging, compared to 70% of all consumers.

Since I represent Evergreen, a company that collects and recycles post-consumer PET bottles into recycled PET pellets (rPET) into a host of new products, these consumer preferences are music to my ears. Not simply because the market for rPET will grow in response, but also for the environmental impact. If we can increase current recycling rates of PET bottles (about 29%) to meet growing consumer demand for products made with rPET, think of how much waste we can divert from landfills, oceans and waterways?

Changing consumer preferences are not lost on major brands. Case in point: Cocoa-Cola, PepsiCo, and Keurig-Dr. Pepper are collaborating with the American Beverage Association on the national Every Bottle Back initiative. Other major brands like Nestlé are also committed to boosting their use of recycled content in their packaging.

Having these companies on board with recycled PET is a major win. But if we want to have a real impact on the planet and win the hearts and buying power of consumers, we need more companies to trade their virgin PET resin for rPET resin.

With this in mind, I’m going to share six compelling reasons more companies should embrace rPET:

This is what rPET looks like before it goes into new products.

REASON 1: Consumer Preference
People buy brands that reflect their values. Products with rPET are a big win. When you convert from virgin resin to rPET, let your customers know.

REASON 2: Major Energy Savings
rPET requires 79% less energy to produce than virgin PET. With energy costs going up, this represents both a savings and a win.

REASON 3: Water Conservation
It takes 90% less water to produce the same amount of rPET as virgin PET. With some areas of the world facing water shortages, this is huge.

REASON 4: Cuts Greenhouse Gases
Replacing 100% virgin resin with 100% recycled resin reduces greenhouse gasses by nearly 60%. That’s something we can all appreciate.

REASON 5: Smaller Carbon Footprint
rPET manufacturing processes produce 71% less greenhouse gas emissions as virgin PET. rPET manufacturing processes are green!

REASON 6: Goodbye Landfills
The more post-consumer PET bottles recycled, into rPET, the fewer PET bottles go to landfills, reducing our reliance on landfills.

Increased plastics recycling = cleaner oceans.

REASON 7: Hello Clean Oceans!
As demand for rPET increases around the world, people will be more inclined to recycle PET bottles rather than toss on the ground. Recycling rates will expand exponentially with financial incentives.

REASON 8: Preserves the Earth’s Resources
Recycling post-consumer bottles decreases the need for new raw materials. As plastics are made from petroleum products, rPET reduces our reliance on oil.

You have to admit, this is quite a list. I think the question really is: why use anything but rPET?

If you want more rPET in your packaging, clothing and other products, we need everyone to get involved. As I’ve already mentioned, less than one-third of post-consumer PET bottles are recycled. So there’s a lot of room for improvement. Here are suggestions on how to improve recycling rates

SUGGESTION 1: Increase Awareness
Create excitement and participation by sharing the story of PET plastic recycling, how recycled PET is used in new packaging, clothing, and other products, and benefits to the environment with school kids, seniors and civic groups.

Let’s get PET bottle recycling rates up now!

SUGGESTION 2: Engage Communities
Does your city or company have a recycling program? If not, they should. Dedicated recycling bins or carts makes recycling easy. Also, partnership with recyclers like Evergreen that have multiple locations across the United States make community recycling easier. Also, you know that the post-consumer PET bottles we collect will be recycled into rPET!

SUGGESTION 3: Encourage Incentives
Rewarding consumers for bringing bottles back works. Even a small financial reward will get more people recycling. Some states like California will pay rebates for post-consumer PET bottles. If we can get more states on board, recycling rates on PET bottles would rise.

Evergreen is among North America’s largest producers of recycled PET, and we continue to add locations and capacity to meet the demands of consumers and companies that want to replace virgin PET with RPET. To learn more about our recycling services or our rPET, please connect! And make sure you either reuse or recycle all of the carryout food containers you’ve collected this past year!