5 easy steps to recycle PET* plastic

We use plastic in our home everyday – whether it’s packaging for food and drink, around the house, components in our computers or even car parts – but when it comes to recycling, it can be a little confusing as to what to do. 

PET plastic is the one you should look out for. Why? Because PET is 100% recyclable and is the most widely recycled plastic in the world.

PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate and it’s a clear, strong and lightweight plastic.  It can be recycled back into packaging, fabric, fibrefill or automotive parts. Because of this, PET should not be treated as trash but rather as a reusable resource.

STEP 1: Where do we find PET plastic in the home?

PET plastic is most widely used for soft drinks and water bottles. Food packaging and bottles for household and personal care products are also usually made from PET plastic. This type of plastic is usually transparent, but can also come tinted or in a solid colour.

STEP 2: Look out for the number 1

So how do you know if it’s PET? Every plastic container or bottle is imprinted with a recycling symbol, usually located at its base. The symbol is a number, ranging from 1 to 7, and these are a clue as to the type of plastic you’re dealing with. PET plastic can be identified by looking for the #1.
STEP 3: Prep your PET plastic waste for recycling

Once you’ve identified the PET waste in your home, make sure to rinse and clean to prevent bad smell and bugs. It’s also a good idea to flatten the bottles, so they take up less space for transportation and are easier to crush for recycling. Bottle caps are recyclable too, keep the caps on so that they don’t get lost or become litter. 

STEP 4: Set up your recycling system at home

The key to successful home recycling is your storage bin setup. The best place to keep your recycling bin is usually in the kitchen or garage. If you keep your recycling bin outside, make sure to cover with a lid to protect against strong winds or pests.

STEP 5: Get the PET plastic to the recyclers

Once you’ve collected up a bin or bag of PET plastic recyclables, you can arrange for it to be collected from your home by a local service. Alternatively, you can take it to the nearest recycling drop-off spot – whether this be a local NGO, school, shopping mall – or directly to a recycling centre (see www.PETCO.co.za for more details).

So what happens to your bottles once they end up at the recycler? It will be sorted, crushed and processed into flakes or pellets of PET plastic, which in turn becomes a brand new, useful item.

This includes brand new PET bottles and packaging containers, fibre filling for pillows or clothing, fabric for industrial carpet, upholstery for the home or car parts such as bumpers.

Did you know? Recycling just five two-litre bottles can produce enough polyester for a square yard of carpet!

Thanks to recycling, fewer original natural resources have to be used and less waste ends up sitting at the landfill! Let’s all do our bit to recycle PET plastic. 

To find out more about PET plastic recycling in South Africa and how you can get involved, visit the website for PETCO, the national industry body responsible for managing PET plastic recycling in South Africa – www.petco.co.za.

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