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PET in Profile

PET Sheet

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a transparent thermoplastic of the polyester family and is used in synthetic fibres; bottles and food packaging; thermoforming applications; and engineering resins. It is often used in combination with glass fibre.

Material Facts

The majority of the worlds PET production is for synthetic fibres (in excess of 60%) with bottle production accounting for around 30% of global demand. The polyester industry makes up about 18% of world polymer production.

Material Science

PET is made from terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol through a condensation reaction. It came into prominence in the 1950s as a textile material. Its strength, temperature tolerance and wear-resistance made it an ideal replacement for, or addition to natural fibres such as silk, cotton and wool.

What are the characteristics of PET?

  • Crystal clear and colour stable
  • High impact resistance and tensile strength
  • Good chemical resistance
  • Light in weight
  • Design flexibility
  • Recyclable
  • Exceptional dimensional stability
  • Heat and heat ageing resistance
  • Excellent wear properties

Material Usage

Whilst most production is for synthetic fibres and bottle production, new applications are evolving as manufacturers adopt this material for use in construction, engineering, automotive and medical sectors.

Environmental Impact

PET is made from the same three elements (carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen) as paper, and contains no toxic substances. When burned, it produces carbon dioxide gas and water, leaving no toxic residues.

While most thermoplastics can, in principle, be recycled, PET bottle recycling is more practical than many other plastic applications. The primary reason is that plastic carbonated soft drink bottles and water bottles are almost exclusively PET, which makes them more easy to identify in a recycle stream. PET has a resin identification code of 1. One of the uses for a recycled PET bottle is for the manufacture of polar fleece material. It can also make fibre for polyester products.

Because of the recyclability of PET and the relative abundance of post-consumer waste in the form of bottles, PET is rapidly gaining market share as a carpet fibre. everSTRAND was released in 1999, a 100% post-consumer recycled content PET fibre, and  since that time, more than 17 billion bottles have been recycled into carpet fibre.

PET, as with many plastics, is also an excellent candidate for thermal disposal (incineration), as it is composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, with only trace amounts of catalyst elements (but no sulfur). PET has the energy content of soft coal.

At the end of a PET product´s life it can be recovered, recycled or disposed of safely.

Industry Resources/Links 


Plastics Industry

Associations

  • European Plastic Distributors Association www.epda.com 
  • International Association of Plastics Distributors www.iapd.org