17 July 2011

How PET plastic is recycled

This video was shot in an EcoStar facility just down the street from where we live.  I had always wondered what goes on in there. The technology is impressive; clearly the recycling involves more than a bunch of ladies in smocks standing next to a conveyor belt...

Via The Conservation Report.


  1. This may be a dumb question but I've wondered how much loss there is in this type of recycling. If you recycle 100 two-liter Coke bottles do you get enough plastic back out of the recycling process (plus the heating and roll-forming processes) to get 100 two-liters back or is there an inherent loss? How many times can we run it through before we need to add virgin plastic?

  2. From 2:49 to 2:53, they "recycled" footage used earlier at 2:32, except show the video in reverse. This is noticeable, because the automatic sorting machine uses gravity (and compressed air blasts) to sort the bottles after the video camera identifies them -- by showing the video in reverse, the bottles appear to fly uphill!

    btw, the company where I work helped develop a similar automated sorter for colored glass.

  3. My question is how does the recycling get from the truck which picks up my stuff and delivers it to the recycling center into those bales?


  4. Hi DaBris,
    There's another intermediate sorting plant that takes your recyclables and sorts them using a combination of machine and human labour. I've worked at two such plants and really enjoy the smelly, sweaty, dirty work that goes on there.
    One of my favourite positions was to be the second spot on the plastics line. The 1st spot removes the big laundry detergent bottles (resin code 2: high density polyethelyne) and I would pick PET bottles. On a good day I think I could pull about 200 bottles a minute, though not for prolonged periods. (The people on those lines seem downright lackadaisical!) The crushed bottles coming out of that auger setup were baled to supply a similar plant to the one in the video.
    Recycling is super fun but I also often wonder at its cost, resource and energy efficiency...

  5. I don't understand what difference it makes whether you get 94 bottle-equivalents back or 26 or whatever. The important point would be whether generating 94 or 26 bottles that way would be more efficient/use fewer resources than generating 94/26 by new production from petroleum-based material.

  6. Minnesotastan-
    I took Foster's commnet to be simple curiosity. Not "Is this efficient enough to make it worthwhile?", but more of "This is neat. I wonder how efficient this process is and can we make it better."

  7. In retrospect, I think you're right.


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