Understanding the process behind plastic recycling

Strong, light and resistant to impact, PET is a popular packaging material and it’s easy to recycle into recycled PET (rPET). We look at how the plastic recycling process works.
A hand holding up a crushed, clear plastic bottle, against a blurred panelled background

Reshaping the future   

In a world where plastic production is increasing fast, most people are aware by now of its significance for the environment. Nevertheless, most plastic today still ends up as trash – and because it takes more than 400 years to degrade, most of the plastic ever produced is still littering the planet.

The good news is that a lot of plastic can be recycled, helping to reduce litter and landfill space, bring down emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and reduce our dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels.

The most recycled plastic in the world is polyethylene terephthalate, known as PET. Our N.A.E. liquid hair care, such as the equilibrio purifying shampoo and riparazione shampoo, all come in 98% recycled PET bottle.

What is PET?

Blue plastic bottle used a vase for blue plastic flowers, surrounded by other plastic bottles on a pink tablecloth

Discovered and patented in the UK in 1941, PET is a plastic resin and the most common form of polyester. In its natural state, PET is flexible and transparent; depending on how it’s processed, it can end up semi-rigid or completely rigid. It’s strong, light and resistant to impact – which is why it makes such a good packaging material and is so commonly used for drink bottles.

Best of all, PET is highly suitable for use as a recycled material, or rPET (recycled PET). rPET can be made into darker food packaging materials, as well as a wide range of products including blankets, car parts, shoes and much more. Using rPET as an alternative to plastic that’s derived from non-renewable crude oil, is essential for the sustainable future of our planet.

How is rPET made?

NAE daily usage shampoo on a wooden bathroom bench next to a bathtub, open notebook and brown bottle on bench

Next time you wash your hands with N.A.E. liquid soap, take a closer look at the plastic bottle. It’s been on quite a journey to your bathroom!

1.      Empty PET bottles are collected and sorted by machines at a recycling facility. They are sorted by type of plastic, and by colour.

2.      The bottles are washed to remove impurities and anything that’s not plastic, such as paper labels and the adhesive that glues them to the bottles.

3.      The plastic is “resized” – this means it’s shredded or granulated into small particles so that it’s easier to process and reshape. This is the last chance to remove waste that’s not plastic, such as metal, which is done with metal detectors and magnets.

4.      The small plastic particles are now tested to identify and separate them in terms of their quality and type. To see how dense they are, they’re floated in a tank of water; to measure their thickness, they’re flown around in a small wind tunnel.

5.      Now, at last, the tiny plastic particles are smashed and melted together into ready-to-use recycled plastic pellets so they can be re-formed into other plastic products – such as a new bottle for semplicità daily usage shampoo!

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