What Is the Life Cycle of a Recycled Plastic Bottle?
Video and infographic to share with your students!
Do you know what happens to a plastic bottle after you drop it into the recycling bin? A recycled plastic bottle goes on quite an adventure from the moment you throw it away until it becomes something new again. Learn about this adventure firsthand with this video and free printable infographic poster! They explain the life cycle of a recycled plastic bottle from start to finish. Scroll down to watch the video. Then print and hang the infographic in a central location to teach others about the process.
The Life Cycle of a Recycled Bottle
Plastic #1 is made of polyethylene terephthalate (aka PETE, PET, or polyester), known for its strength, durability, barrier properties, and ability to be formed into various shapes.
Plastic bottles are very recyclable! Recycling a plastic bottle uses much less energy and natural resources than making one from new (virgin) materials, so remember to put your used bottles in the recycling bin to help give them new life!
Stage 1: Used Bottle
This process begins when you place an empty bottle into a recycling bin. A recycling facility recovers the bottle and sends it to a plastic reclaiming plant.
Stage 2: Dirty PET Flakes
A machine shreds used plastic bottles into tiny pieces, called flakes. Another machine washes the flakes to help remove glue, paper, sand, or other contaminants.
Stage 3: Clean PET Flakes
Next, using a float-sink process or a washing line, the plastic flakes receive a continuous wash of water and detergent. This removes pieces of labels, caps, germs, or dirt that might have been found in the dirty flakes.
Stage 4: Resin Pellets
The clean flakes are then melted down at a high temperature and formed into resin pellets. At this point, they could be used to make all kinds of useful things.
Stage 5: Preform
High heat and pressure melt down the resin pellets, then inject them into a mold to create the “preform.”
Stage 6: New Bottle
The preform is heated up again until the plastic is soft enough to flow. Then pressurized air pushes the plastic out to the edges of the mold, which forms the plastic into the shape of a bottle. The blow mold cools and opens up to release a brand new recycled plastic bottle.