Studies show a correlation between educating consumers and higher participation in recycling programs. Since many people ask what happens to the cardboard, paper and containers (plastic, glass and metal) that are put into recycling bins and this is graduation season, I thought it would be an opportune time to bring awareness to one of the ways water bottles are recycled.
A revelation to me when entering this industry was that plastic bottles were recycled into fiber that is used to manufacture clothing. Plastic water and soda bottles are typically made of a type of plastic called polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE), indicated by a number one inside the chasing arrow symbol typically located on the bottom of a container. PET is the most common resin of the polyester family. And, when peopled discard empty plastic bottles by tossing them into recycling bins, these recyclables are referred to as post-consumer waste in the industry.
Post-consumer PET plastic bottles are shredded into small pieces called flake, which is cleaned then melted into small plastic pellets. These polyester pellets are spun into fiber for filling jackets or yarn for making apparel. Watch this 5 minute video to see how plastic bottles get turned into polyester for clothing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyF9MxlcItw
Today, graduates from over 1,000 higher education institutions are wearing graduation gowns made from recycled content. Each gowns uses 23-27 PET bottles. So, next time you wonder if your recycling efforts make a difference, know that each bottle consumed can have a better after-consumption purpose versus being buried in a landfill for hundreds of years.
To all those graduating this season, highest honor goes to students wearing and companies manufacturing caps and gowns made from post-consumer PET!