Facts on PET

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Facts on PET?

Facts on PET is an educational campaign designed to dispel any misconceptions about PET and the environmental concerns surrounding PET bottle production and recycling. Our message is simple: PET is globally recognized as a safe, recyclable packaging material. Most single-serve plastic bottles, including those for water, soft drinks and juices, are made with PET, which can be recycled and does not contain BPA.

What is the difference between BPA and PET?

Simply put, there is no link between BPA and PET. PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate. PET (also known as PETE) is designated by a recyclable “1.” Most often found in single-serve plastic bottles, such as those used for water or soft drinks, PET is a safe, recyclable material that contains no BPA. BPA, which stands for bisphenol-A, is one of the building blocks of another type of plastic called polycarbonate, which is most often found in reusable rigid containers and electronic devices.

How can consumers differentiate between PET and products containing BPA?

All plastic containers should have a number on the bottom that designates the recycling stream for that product. PET containers are usually labeled with the letters “PET” or “PETE” and the recycling symbol “1.” Polycarbonate products that contain BPA are one of several materials labeled with the recycling symbol “7.” However, the recycling symbol “7” is a catch-all category that also includes other plastic and bio-resins that do not contain BPA.

What is your position on BPA?

Facts on PET supports the efforts of regulators to ensure that plastics are safe for the public through scientific testing and analysis. We believe that public policy decisions should be based on the best available scientific information.

Don’t PET bottles leech antimony?

Antimony trioxide is a catalyst that is sometimes used in PET production. Numerous tests have found that the level of antimony in bottled beverages falls well below even the strictest regulatory guidelines designed to protect public health. (See the International Life Sciences Institute white paper on PET) In addition, some resin producers are proactively shifting toward other catalysts that would reduce or eliminate the need for antimony in the production of PET.

Does PET contain or leach estrogen-like chemicals?

Current research shows that PET does not contain or leach estrogen-like chemicals such as BPA or other endocrine disrupters. A recent study from the University of Pisa entitled “Screening of estrogen-like activity of mineral water stored in PET bottles,” determined that sampled PET bottles did not exhibit any appreciable estrogenic activity.

Is PET safe?

Numerous tests have found PET to be a safe material for the storage of food products. For research on the subject, see the International Life Sciences Institute white paper on PET.

What has the Canadian government done with regards to products containing BPA?

Health Canada recommended banning polycarbonate baby products in April 2008. The government recently labeled BPA a hazardous substance and passed legislation that will ban the use of BPA in food containers, specifically baby bottles and infant formula cans lined with BPA. The Canadian government determined that there are potential health risks for infants exposed to BPA.

What action is being taken in the United States to ban products containing BPA?

Legislation banning children’s products made with polycarbonate containing BPA, such as baby bottles and “sippy” cups, has been introduced to the U.S. Senate. Other states, such as California and Michigan, are also considering legislation banning the use of materials made with BPA in children’s products.

Aren’t single-serve plastic bottles harmful to the environment?

Most single-serve plastic bottles are made of PET, a safe, lightweight, low-cost and recyclable plastic. Though it takes energy and petroleum to create PET, it is 100% recyclable. Also, a recent Life Cycle Analysis conducted by the Allied Development Corporation determined how the environmental footprint and greenhouse gas emissions of manufacturing and transporting PET relates to alternative forms of packaging. The first study found that in North America, PET is the most favorable alternative when compared to aluminum cans and glass bottles for a 355 ml carbonated soft drink application. When measuring greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, PET containers had the best performance.

The following LCA studies relating to PET are available for viewing:

Where there is support and infrastructure in place for recycling, the materials can be beneficially reused in a wide variety of products. Unfortunately, recycling rates in much of the United States are disappointingly low. We encourage the recycling of PET and all other recyclable materials and encourage municipalities to work with consumers, manufacturers and recyclers to educate the public on good recycling practices and develop better municipal recycling services and facilities.

How much PET is used to produce common water, juice and soft drink bottles?

Water bottles are getting increasingly lighter: 500 ml of water can be packaged in 12 grams of PET compared to the 2007 average of 19 grams. Technology is currently being developed to further reduce the amount of PET used in water bottles. In 2008, PET water bottles requiring only 6 grams of PET were developed. Carbonated beverages require additional plastic to withstand the internal pressure and remain carbonated. Water bottles require less plastic per bottle and, therefore, consume fewer raw material resources and less fuel during transport.

Half-liter plastic water bottles now use as little as 12 grams of PET, nearly 40% less than the average amount just a few years ago. Likewise, soft drink bottles, though heavier to keep in carbonation, are becoming increasingly lighter. These lightweight PET bottles require fewer raw materials to produce, less fuel for transport and are still completely recyclable. We encourage the development of new technologies to decrease the environmental impact of PET containers, increase recycling services and improve consumer recycling habits of PET and other recyclable products.

Husky Injection Molding Systems (www.husky.ca) recently announced the development of new manufacturing equipment that helps increase the amount of recycled material in PET bottles, helping to make them even more sustainable.

What has Facts on PET done to encourage recycling?

Recycling of all plastics, including PET, is an important component of sustainability and something that we strongly encourage and support. Our leadership team includes the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR), which represents companies that process more than 90% of all the post-consumer plastic in North America.

Do municipal bottled water bans limit bottled water waste?

It is unlikely that bottled water bans will do much to change consumer disposal practices. We believe that a more effective use of time and resources would be for city councils to work with consumers, recyclers and bottle manufacturers to increase recycling participation. This could be accomplished by offering better recycling services, including drop-off centers and public recycling bins and by initiating educational campaigns that promote recycling.

What’s wrong with drinking municipal tap water?

We believe everyone should have access to clean drinking water. In many cases, especially in developed countries, there is absolutely nothing wrong with drinking municipal tap water. However, there are situations in which people choose bottled water for reasons of safety, convenience or personal preference.

Does Facts on PET support bottled water return deposits?

Facts on PET supports any program that encourages PET plastic recycling, including bottled water deposit programs. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to increase recycling participation in every municipality. Bottled water deposits may increase recycling in some municipalities. However, in some cases, better community education programs or municipal recycling services and facilities are needed.

What has the industry been doing to educate the public on plastics and health?

The industry as a whole has provided information about plastics and health primarily via the Web. The industry bases its educational material on research from governmental organizations, independent laboratories, academics and in-house testing. The Facts on PET’s educational campaign represents a more proactive approach to addressing misconceptions about PET and BPA by providing outreach to media and other organizations that are communicating inaccurate information.

Have a question about PET, BPA or Facts on PET? Please e-mail us at facts@factsonpet.com.