PET Plastic Bottle Facts

PET plastic bottles are a popular choice for packaging soft drinks due to the numerous benefits they provide both to manufacturers and consumers. 70% of soft drinks (carbonated drinks, still and dilutable drinks, fruit juices and bottled water), are now packaged in PET plastic bottles – the rest comes mainly in glass bottles, metal cans and cartons.

However, despite the benefits of using PET plastic, many misconceptions exist about plastic bottles. This factsheet is intended to correct some of these

Benefits of PET plastic bottles

  • Lightweight: Cost-effective to produce and require less energy to transport
  • Safe: Do not shatter and cause a hazard if broken or damaged
  • Convenient: Because they are safe and lightweight, they are also convenient for on-the-go consumption
  • Re-sealable: Suitable for multi-serve packs
  • Recyclable: Can be recycled so that the PET can be used over and over again
  • Sustainable: Increasing numbers of PET plastic bottles are made from recycled PET
  • Distinctive: Can be moulded into different shapes, enabling brands to use them to build identity and promote drinks
  • Flexible: Manufacturers can switch from one bottle shape or size to another, meaning a high level of efficiency

Environmental facts

Recycling: All PET plastic bottles can be recycled. Recoup’s ‘UK Household Plastics Collection Survey 2014’ confirmed that nearly 60% of PET plastic bottles in the household waste stream are now being collected for recycling – in 2001 this figure was just 3%. Major soft drinks manufacturers have also signed up to the Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary agreement with WRAP which spans over three phases. The third phase, launched in May 2013, is more focused on finding opportunities to reduce the carbon impact of packaging, whereas the first two phases focussed on focused on the reduction of packaging and packaging weight.

Through innovation, the industry is constantly improving its environmental record further. PET plastic bottles have been redesigned so that they are 30% lighter than 15 years ago and increasing amounts of recycled plastic are used to manufacture the bottles themselves. The industry is also working with organisations such as RECOUP on further innovation in the design of PET plastic bottles.

We all need to ensure that recycling rates continue to grow and the soft drinks industry urges people to recycle their plastic bottles and not discard them as litter. The growth in litter needs to be tackled and the industry fully supports public campaigns against littering and sponsors a number of on-the-go recycling initiatives to help people dispose of their empty bottles responsibly. See here to learn more about plastic packaging recycling.

Use of oil:
A tiny proportion of the world’s oil is used to make PET plastic bottles.

  • 4% of world oil is used to make all plastic
  • In the UK, 37% of plastic is used to make packaging
  • Of this packaging, just 1.2% of plastic packaging is used to make PET plastic drinks bottles

Use of water: The industry, in line with its environmental responsibilities, is constantly looking at ways to reduce further the amount of water it uses in its manufacturing processes.

PET plastic packaging facts

Antimony: Antimony is used in minute amounts in the manufacture of PET plastic. It is approved around the world for this purpose. There is an EU maximum permitted level for antimony in bottled water. All reported levels of antimony found in bottled water are considerably below the safe level permitted.

Bisphenol A (BPA): BPA is used in the manufacture of some plastics such as food and drink can linings, but it is not used in PET plastic food and drink containers (nor those made from HDPE, LDPE or polypropylene).

Bisphenol A has been approved as safe for use in all food and drink containers by the European Food Safety Authority and the UK Food Standards Agency, and dietary exposure to BPA is well below the recognized tolerable daily intake (TDI).

Phthalates: Phthalates are substances used in the manufacture of PVC plastics to make them flexible – they are not used in the manufacture of PET plastic bottles.

All packaging used by the soft drinks industry is strictly regulated and must comply with European law, and EU legislation sets maximum limits for migration from food contact plastics into food. The European Food Safety Authority established safe levels for phthalates following a thorough review of safety data in 2005. The levels UK consumers are exposed to do not exceed the safety levels set.

Plastic bottles in cars: There are no carcinogens in PET plastic – it is a myth that a plastic bottle left in a car will leach carcinogens into the soft drink it contains.

Storage: Soft drinks bottles should be stored in the same way as many food items – they should be kept in a cool, dark place and should not be stored close to household chemical, cleaning product containers or sources of strong odors.

Re-use: If the bottle has been sold as reusable bottle, please do reuse the bottle. If the bottle has been sold as a single use bottle, it has been designed for single use only.
Independent endorsement for plastic bottles emerged from work commissioned by the BPF’s Plastics and Flexible Packaging Group and carried out by YouGov in 2014, aimed at understanding UK consumer trends in packaging. One particular question focussed on PET water bottles, which found that the PET water bottle was ranked as the ‘most practical’, ‘most versatile’ and ‘most convenient’ packaging type by over 20% of respondents. A downloadable summary of the main findings of this survey can be found on the BPF website.

SOURCE: British Plastics Federation 2017 –

Fun Facts About PET

  • The PET bottle was patented in 1973 by chemist Nathaniel Wyeth (brother of distinguished American painter Andrew Wyeth).
  • The first PET bottle was recycled in 1977.
  • An estimated 9,400 curbside collection programs and 10,000 drop-off programs collect PET plastic in the United States, currently.
  • Approximate number of PET beverage bottles per pound:
    16 oz. — 18 bottles per pound
    20 oz. — 19 bottles per pound
    1 liter — 12 bottles per pound
    2 liter — 9 bottles per pound
    3 liter — 5 bottles per pound

  • Cubic yards conserved in a landfill by recycling PET beverage bottles:
    4,800 recycled 16-ounce bottles saves a cubic yard
    4,050 recycled 20-ounce bottles saves a cubic yard
    3,240 recycled 1-liter bottles saves a cubic yard
    2,430 recycled 2-liter bottles saves a cubic yard
    1,350 recycled 3-liter bottles saves a cubic yard

  • Recycling a ton of PET containers saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space.
  • According to the EPA, recycling a pound of PET saves approximately 12,000 BTU’s.
  • The average household generated 42 pounds of PET plastic bottles in the year 2005.
  • Custom bottles (which are bottles used for products other than carbonated soft drinks) represent 62% of all PET bottles available for recycling.
  • Nineteen 20 oz. PET bottles yield enough fiber for an extra large T-shirt, or enough to make one square foot of carpet.
  • It takes 63 20 oz. PET bottles to make a sweater.
  • Fourteen 20 oz. PET bottles yield enough fiberfill for a ski jacket.
  • It takes 114 20 oz. PET bottles to make enough fiberfill for a sleeping bag.

  • SOURCE: National Association for PET Container Resources (