All plastic bottles are not created equal. The American Chemistry Council identifies the plastic resin used in drink bottles as Code 1 (the number located on the bottle bottom inside the chasing arrows recycling logo) and describes it as Polyethylene Terephthalate or PET. It is nicknamed polyester. But PET isn’t just for leisure suits; it has a number of other cool, more modern, uses. Below are 7 of the most interesting things that people are doing with the hundreds of millions of drinks bottles that are available to be recycled:
- Pop Bottle Carpet. These popular carpets are made of recycled drinks bottles that are reprocessed by chipping and cleaning the bottles, melting the chips, and extruding the resulting mass into fine polyester fibres. The carpets are considered to be highly durable, to inhibit the production of static electricity and remarkably stain resistant. According to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) it takes 19 of the 20 ounce size PET bottles to produce enough fibre for one square foot of carpet.
- Cell Phones. The Motorola MOTO W233 Renew has a plastic housing comprised entirely of recycled water bottles and is 100 percent recyclable. The company claims that it is the world’s first carbon neutral phone. The packaging for the phone has been reduced by 22 per cent, the box itself and all the printed materials inside are 100 percent recycled paper and Motorola has included a postage-paid recycling envelope to send your old phone to them for recycling.
- Handmade Table, Floor and Ceiling Lamps. London based designer Sarah Turner’s Echo Art and Design business uses a variety of plastic soda and water bottles to create her ReDesign Drinks Bottle Lights. One of Sarah’s designs took second place at the 2009 EDF Ideal Home Show in London in the category of Concept Products.
- An Island. Richart Sowa built Spiral Island in 1998 using over a quarter of a million empty plastic bottles. Sowa, a British eco-pioneer, netted the bottles together and used them to support a bamboo and plywood base covered with sand and plants. Located in a lagoon on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, Spiral Island boasted a two-story house and 3 beaches. The original island was washed ashore in the hurricane of 2005 but was rebuilt in a more protected location and is now open for tours.
- A Boat. David de Rothschild is in San Francisco planning the voyage of the Plastiki, a 60-foot catamaran made completely of recycled materials, mostly plastic soda bottles (around 10,000 of them). Hewlett Packard has announced that it will join the Plastiki Expedition as the official technology provider for the 10,000-mile trip from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia. The expedition is being undertaken to beat waste by inspiring sustainable solutions and to highlight the ecological damage being done to the world’s oceans.
- Reusable Bags. Bags of all sorts are being produced from 100% post consumer recycled plastic water and soda bottles, using domestic labour and trash. Recycling is estimated to create nearly five times as many jobs as land filling, providing not only low and semi-skilled jobs such as sorters, dispatchers, truck drivers, brokers and sales representatives, but highly skilled jobs as well, process engineers and chemists, for example.
- Clothing. It takes 63 of the 20 ounce PET bottles to make a sweater, 19 for an extra large t-shirt, and 14 for enough fiberfill for a ski jacket. About 19 of these same bottles make up one pound and the EPA calculates that recycling one pound of PET saves approximately 12,000 BTU’s of energy.
The next time you toss your drink bottle into the trash instead of taking the time to find a recycling bin, think again. You may be tossing out the makings of something extraordinary.