The Basic Definition of PET Plastics Before we discuss the ins and outs of PET plastic, you may want to know what PET plastic stands for. PET is short for its chemical name: polyethylene terephthalate. PET is often abbreviated as PETE, PETG, APET, PETP or PET-P. Similar to tissue paper, which is often called “Kleenex,” PET plastic may be referred to by its brand name Dacron (U.S.), Terylene (U.K.) or Lavsan (Russia). PET has many properties that make it desirable in a wide range of applications. In appearance, PET is transparent. It is somewhat flexible, but still strong and does not tear easily. It is light in weight and is easily molded when melted. Uses of PET You almost certainly have many products made from PET in your home. It is often used in water bottles, shampoo containers, soda bottles and plastic cups. Many fabric products also use PET in the form of polyester. Other applications for PET include. Microwaveable containers Salad dressing containers Peanut butter and condiment containers Containers for vitamins Laminates on solar panels Car wiper arms Car engine cover Car headlight retainer Can PET plastic be recycled? Yes! PET is 100% recyclable. It is the most commonly recycled plastic in the world. It can be simply cleaned and melted down for use in lower grades, or hydrolyzed into monomers that are purified and repolymerized to make new food-grade PET. the video below shows another popular way to recycle PET, which is to turn it into polyester clothing. As of 2017, about 29.2% of PET plastic was recycled in the United States. If you want to recycle your own PET plastic products, you can identify PET materials by looking for the number 1 within the continuous arrow. While recycling is the preferred method of disposing of PET, it is safe in landfills. It does not biodegrade on its own and therefore does not contaminate the surrounding area, although Japanese scientists have recently discovered a species of bacteria that can rapidly degrade PET plastic. A brief history of PET plastic The Calico Printers Association originally developed PET in their laboratory in the U.K. It was first prepared in 1940 during research into phthalic acid. Their efforts were patented in 1941. The first use of PET in North America was conducted in the mid-1940s by a group of DuPont scientists. By the late 1950s, PET could be processed into PET film. Later, in the 1970s, PET was used in many of the ways we see it today. For example, in plastic bottles. The Science and Creation of PET PET plastic comes from the polymerization of terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol. These two materials are heated together under low vacuum pressure with the help of a catalyst to produce molten PET. as the liquid becomes thicker and thicker, so do the polymer chains. When the desired polymer strand length is reached, the reaction is stopped. This produces a thin strand of PET that is extruded and cooled. The strands are cut into pellets that can later be remelted and stretched to produce the desired material. The video below outlines the process from these pellets to plastic bottles (skip to 28 seconds). PET’s chemical formula is (C10H8O4)n. It has a density of 1.38 g/cm3. It has a melting point of 482°F and a boiling point of 662°F. Frequently asked questions about PET plastic Is PET plastic safe? Yes. PET has been used safely since the 1940s. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), PET plastic is safe for use in all forms of food and beverages. Numerous studies and tests have confirmed the FDA’s decision to label PET as safe for food use. It does not contain any BPA. What does PET plastic mean? PET plastic is a strong, clear plastic commonly used in food packaging, plastic bottles and household containers. Its chemical name is polyethylene terephthalate. It is identified by the number 1 and surrounded by the recycling symbol. Is PET plastic BPA-free? Yes! PET plastics are completely different from BPA. Although they are used in similar products, PET plastics do not contain BPA. The Future of PET PET’s short-term future is bright. It is an inexpensive, lightweight material that has a plethora of uses. It keeps food and beverages safe around the world, makes some great clothing, and even helps fight malaria. The long-term future depends largely on how we tackle the problem of plastic pollution. Will we continue to throw away our oceans and forests with plastic? Will advances in science and technology further improve the recycling process? Will PLA continue to be popular as a more environmentally friendly solution? Only time will tell!