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How Much PET Plastic is Recycled in NZ, and Why It Matters For Your Business

PET plastic is one of the most common plastic types in NZ. But, only .17% of NZ’s PET plastic is recycled in NZ.

PET plastic is 100% recyclable, over and over again. It’s the most widely recycled type of plastic, it has many uses, and it can even be recycled right here in NZ. This makes it extremely valuable in terms of closing the loop for NZ’s plastic use.

A 2005 report by the New South Wales Department of Environment and Conservation showed PET recycling saved an average consumer 8.8 kilograms CO2 equivalent and 71.0 kilograms water per year (used in reprocessing).

While it would be nice to remove all packaging, and therefore waste, it’s not feasible. Similarly, creating packaging that degrades after one use is expensive and a high use of resources. Therefore, use of PET plastic for packaging is an economical way to ensure the most environmentally friendly and economical packaging.

What is PET Plastic?

Recycling number 1, PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate. It’s a clear plastic that is versatile, strong, and you’ll know it in its most common form; a soft drink bottle. PET jars can safely be used for a huge range of food products, personal care items, and even towards the end of its life, it can become carpets and fabric. It’s highly mouldable, with a low melting point compared to glass or aluminium.

It’s lightweight, making it more efficient to transport and stock on shelves, and easily crushed and baled adding to the environmental benefits.

PET contains no BPA or phthalates, and does not leach endocrine disrupters.

How are PET Jars and Bottles Recycled?

After your plastic is picked up kerb-side, it’s taken to a sorting centre. Machinery sorts the different types of recyclables, with glass and metal moved into their own streams. From there, PET plastic is separated from other plastics, as the presence of other plastics contaminates the PET recycling process.

The PET is compressed into large bales and transported to a processing facility. There, the plastic is separated into colour streams, and then ground up into small flakes. These are then washed to remove lid, ring, and label fragments, as well as food or glue contaminants.

Then, these flakes are decontaminated using high heat. This increases the value of the plastic in terms of longevity and returns it to ‘virgin’ state. It is then melted and turned into long thin rods which are cut down into pellets. These pellets are the raw product which is used to make ‘new’ plastic items.

If the plastic is not of a high enough quality to be reused as food-safe packaging, it has a slightly different process. It’s flaked, washed, heated, and stretched into fibre. This becomes a recycled polyester fabric, which can be used to make carpets, seat belts, insulation, bags, or clothing.

Best PET Recycling Practices

For consumers, if you must purchase items in plastic, it’s good practice to buy items in PET plastic (preferably clear plastic as coloured plastic has less value). Once finished with the product, rinse the plastic container clean. Depending on the council, you may be requested to take the lids off (Christchurch), or leave them on (Auckland). Only put recycling in the bin; introduction of other waste like garden, food, or broken glass, can make the whole load unusable.

In NZ, about 17,000 tonnes of PET is used annually, most as bottles. Only 9403 tonnes of PET plastic is recovered annually, of that, 2,887 tonnes is able to be recycled through standard clear PET recycling processes.  This is in large part due to contamination when the product is manufactured (such as additions of colours), but also can occur when plastic is sent for recycling (such as broken glass entering the facility).

Are You a Food or Cosmetics Producer? Need Square or Round PET Jars?

It’s time to make the change to an easy-to-recycle and safe plastic packaging. You’re helping the environment by making the most logical, reusable, and cost efficient choice. At IFP Group, we have a wide variety of round and square PET jars available.

Contact us to find out what other products we have in stock, or what we could source for you. Email us at info@ifpgroup.co.nz or give us a call on 09 636 9193 and we can chat about the options available for you.

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