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A study into PET recycling suggests that the life cycle impacts will be reduced by 18% if PET bottles (and other PET products) are recycled. Additional scenarios indicate that the reduction in impacts are 25 – 30%. These still do not compare with reduction percentage of 36% for bio-based plastics and the initial life cycle impacts of producing PET are still greater in absolute terms.
If incinerated, PET (with a calorific value of approx. 23 MJ/kg) can produce 60% of the energy from the original waste, in this instance the PET bottle. This, while avoiding additional fossil fuel use to produce electricity, effectively removes this resource from being used in new recycled plastic-based products.
Fundamentally, plastics can have a number of disposal outcomes:
If they end up in the environment, plastic bottles will take 450 years at least to break
Recycling plastic, as reported, leads to additional energy costs but is an absolute necessity in order to restrict environmental pollution and retrieve the inherent resource materials.
The following diagram represents Australian situation. For UK, 44% of PET is recycled at present.