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Polyethylene terephthalate is a thermoplastic polymer resin in the polyester family. It has been used for packaging since the 1950s, and became more widespread when a production process developed in the 1970s made it possible to use it for bottles.
PET’s high flexibility and toughness, and it’s ability to take any form, lets us produce extremely light packaging, which translates to significant savings in raw materials and natural resources when compared with other materials. PET’s exceptional capacity-to-weight ratio is, in other words, key to both its energy efficiency and, by extension, its climate change mitigation. Its use significantly reduces the carbon emissions generated during packaging production, packaged goods transportation and product loss . Also, PET resin’s low melting point (250°C, compared with 1,000°C for glass or aluminium) makes PET packaging more energy efficient and contribute less to climate change.
PET is also a highly stable and inert polymer with very good barrier properties: protecting it from the external environment while not interacting with the packaged product . PET packaging is perfect for food and drink, as it is safe and increases shelf-life, which prevents food waste and by extension reduces the significant environmental impact of food production.
Also, PET contains no Bisphenol A (BPA) – a compound often used in plastics production whose suitability for food packaging has been questioned, and that is already prohibited by a number of governments for use with baby milk and infant formula. Many plastics now declare themselves “BPA free”, yet BPA has never been used in the production of PET.
In terms of circularity, PET is a fully recyclable material that doesn’t lose its properties when recycled. Both virgin and recycled PET production uses far less energy – and is thus less environmentally harmful – than other substrates, and recycled PET can be used for a wide range of food and non-food applications.
As a result, PET packaging both meets the most stringent food safety criteria and is an excellent form of packaging in its own right. It can be formed into a huge range of shapes, adapting well to different packaging designs with high levels of complexity, emphasising corporate identity or lending a distinctive shelf presence to the product it contains. For consumers, PET packaging is convenient as it is strong, light, transparent and safe.
Plastic has been much in the news lately – and the coverage hasn’t exactly been positive. Images of oceans filled with discarded plastic bottles are now firmly rooted in the public consciousness, and the debate is only growing as the voices of environmental protest groups get louder.
Plastic, like any other material, has its disadvantages. But despite pressure, the demand for polymer packaging continues to grow. The pace of life in recent decades has increased significantly, and consumers still expect convenient food packaging that will save time, whether they’re having a snack on the go or keeping hydrated.
Environmentalists quite correctly draw attention to the problem of environmental pollution, but unfortunately, their actions do not help to solve it. Yet, despite such negative context, one kind of plastic – polyethylene terephthalate, or PET – is both the most convenient, affordable and reliable packaging material available, and one that may itself represent a solution to the current plastics crisis.
We at RETAL propose an integrated approach that evaluates the problems accompanying the production, use and disposal of plastic packaging, and finds solutions as efficiently as possible.