What Does the Recycle Symbol Mean – Part 2

June 4, 2009 at 12:56 pm 1 comment

Okay, we had a great comment from Robyn recently regarding the topic of PET ( Polyethylene Terephthalate, a thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family and is used in synthetic fibers; beverage, food and other liquid containers; thermoforming applications; and engineering resins often in combination with glass fiber.)  The comment included this content that we’re going to begin writing about in this post:

“…I would like to talk about PET. This is often mentioned as a material that can be recycled and is used in lower priced “reuseable” warer bottles. However there are growing concerns and question about this material regarding it’s durability and how well it can be recycled or rather down cycled. Finally due to it not being very robust there is the potential for leaching to occur as well.”


We did some research and came up with some information from sources that we consider to be responsible advocates about PET.  Below we’ve listed in bullet point form the facts we could dig up, especially those relevant to how PET plastics relate to the environment, recycling, and the human body.  After the list, we’ll discuss a little bit about our views on the topic.

  • When you see the 1 recycling symbol on your bottle, it means its made with PET.  It’s difficult to make a claim that PET is the #1 most recycled plastic product for many reasons – your local governments recycling programs, degradation of the polymer over time/recycling cycles, people’s habits of trashing PET products vs. recycling them, quality of recycling processes, and more.  However, in our reading we saw a trend that seems to verify that PET is easily and most often the most recycled plastic product.
  • PET makes a good gas and moisture barrier, as well as for alcohol and solvents.  Hence PET’s use in much bottling/containers.
  • Copolymers are introduced into the process of making PET bottles/containers due to the presence of acetaldehyde, which is a naturally forming compound in fruits.  When it forms in PET due to thermal degradation, especially as related to water products, the bottled water can get a fruity taste.
  • Antimony trioxide is used in the production of PET.  You can find details about the World Health Organization’s qualifications for health concerns related to leaching of Antimony trioxide here: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/antimonysum.pdf.  Essentially, the health concerns are negligible to human health.
  • Some recycling companies shred PET into small fragments, resulting in pure PET fragments (after processing), or “PET flakes”. PET flakes are used as the raw material for a range of products that would otherwise be made of polyester. Examples include polyester fibres (a base material for the production of clothing, pillows, carpets, etc), polyester sheets, strapping, or back into PET bottles.
  • In 2007, the statistics were that 85% of PET bottles were NOT recycled.
  • PET bottles don’t contain bisphenol A, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), a trade association for the PET plastic industry. Scientific research on the potential for PET bottles to leach harmful substance is limited.
  • There is likely to be more risk from reuse of PET bottles for bacterial infection.  Another great reason to NOT use disposable water bottles and get yourself a reusable water bottle and keep it clean!


As you can see, there is a lot of information about PET out there.  We found a lot of detail about the process of making PET and the recyling process, but not a lot about its possible health effects on humans and the environment.  However, we know this – disposable water bottles = waste, waste in production, consumption, and trash.  One product we carry, the EcoNap bed for dogs, is made with IntelliSoft fibers which are made from a patented recycling process that turns PET plastic into soft, durable fibers.

We’ve done some homework on the topic of PET, but we know there are LOTS of other research and articles out there.  Please, get in touch with us using the comment system on this blog and let us know what you’ve found.  And big thanks to Robyn for raising this topic which is an important piece of the overal topic of what the recycling triangles really mean.

Our sources:








Entry filed under: About ecosumo, reusable water bottles. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

If We Don’t Say So Ourselves… Dallas to Get First Ever City Block Designed for Complete Sustainability

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. kate mockler  |  September 16, 2009 at 9:54 am

    thank you you really helped me with my homework 🙂 !!

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