Will PET Bottles Sink or Float?
Polymers, or plastics are all pervasive in today’s world. It is hard to imagine looking around a modern-day room without finding something made of it. Plastic bottles are used to store consumable items like energy drinks, sodas, and the quintessential drink of water to oil, cleaning agents, detergent, and the like.
Being single-use products, the packaging commodity is inseparable from the question of pollution. The PET industry that produces these bottles is exploding with the growth of developing countries around the world.
We can see in our free plastic bottles import export data; Countries like Vietnam and Mexico are trading plastic bottles worldwide, and with the US.
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Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), trademarked as Dacron, is a type of plastic ideal for making bottles. It was introduced by a US-based company called Invista in 1954. Since then, it’s become the most popular synthetic fiber in the world.
Technically a fiber and a resin, it can be spun out into thin fibers or molded under heat and pressure. It’s used to make plastic flasks that can be shaped into various kinds of bottles that can hold their shape once cooled.
These flasks are made in bulk and are used by many different people. Big cold drink corporations buy wholesale PET flasks, mold them, fill them up, and use them to sell their products. After use, these bottles are meant to be recycled.
The USA has been the most influential place for this commodity. It’s the birthplace of PET and home to Coca Cola, one of the most influential companies for plastic bottles. Both the leading exporters’ PET production is supplied to the US.
Germany was the first foreign country where Coke expanded its production in the 1990s. After which, Germany became a PET hub and today, it’s well known for its excellent recycling practices.
China, on the other hand, is notorious for its plastic waste levels. The Asian country even banned plastic imports recently. The plastic bottle export data shows that even France is exporting mainly to America.
Top exporting countries (2020)
- China ($2 billion)
- Germany ($948 million)
- United States ($747 million)
- France ($488 million)
- Netherlands ($411 million)
Unsurprisingly, the US is the biggest importer of plastic bottles. As we can see in the plastic bottles import data, most of these imports are from China. So after the flasks are made in bulk, they are bought by factories all over the world. But that’s not all, even used bottles have a worthwhile economic value, as we’ll see in the next section.
Top importing countries (2020)
- United States ($1.58 billion)
- Germany ($765 million)
- France ($724 million)
- Canada ($520 million)
- Netherlands ($437 million)
What to expect
PET is by far the easiest type of plastic to recycle. Its recycling code number is 1 and it has many uses even after being thrown away. It can easily be washed, melted down, and reused to make more bottles. It can also be used to make fibers which can be used in various other things.
Despite all that, less than 20% of plastic bottles are recycled in the US. Exporting plastic waste is becoming unfeasible although it is still very common. Things are in a flux currently as China has banned its plastic waste imports.
Bio-degradable bottles and more efficient ways of recycling will be important factors in the future.