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PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) is one of the most widely used types of plastic in the world, especially for the production of bottles, containers, and caps. It is easily recognizable thanks to the recycling symbol with the number 1 in the lower part.
Recycling PET is important because it helps to reduce the environmental impact caused by plastic waste. In fact, if not properly disposed of, plastic waste can end up in landfills or in the ocean, causing irreversible damage to marine fauna and flora.
There are numerous advantages to recycling PET: reduced costs, lower energy consumption, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, recycled PET can be used to produce items such as clothing, household accessories, and toys, which have a lower environmental impact compared to those produced with virgin material.
To recycle PET correctly, it is important to separate the plastic from other waste, placing it in appropriate containers for separate collection. This way, PET can be collected separately and sent to specialized recycling centers where it will be processed into raw material for the production of new items. Containers for PET often have the indication:
During World War II, the American army faced a production shortage due to the lack of Japanese silk and nylon. In search of an alternative, polyester was developed, a versatile material suitable for many uses.
In the 1970s, polyester was used to produce transparent, tasteless, and very strong packaging, properties that were highly appreciated and led to the material's rapid success.
Today, tin and aluminum are among the most widely used packaging materials in the world, thanks to their strength, ability to protect contents from oxidation and moisture, and versatility. Some of the most common containers include:
According to the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging (APEAL), approximately 16.7 million tonnes of tin were produced in Europe in 2020, of which 70% was recyclable and 85% was actually recycled. Aluminum, on the other hand, was produced in Europe for a quantity of 4.4 million tonnes, with a recycling rate of 76%.
Both materials are used to package a wide range of products, including food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. In Switzerland, tin is mainly used to package foods such as fruit preserves, vegetables, meat, and fish, while aluminum is mainly used to package beverages such as beer, soft drinks, and coffee.
The use of tin and aluminum as packaging materials has a long history dating back to at least 1810, when the Frenchman Nicolas Appert developed a technique for vacuum-sealing food in glass jars. Later, in 1813, the Englishman Peter Durand patented the technology for producing metal cans, which began to be mass-produced from 1819.
To produce aluminum, bauxite must be extracted from the ground, transported to a refinery, and then heated to high temperatures (about 1,000°C or 1832 °F) to convert it to aluminum oxide. This refining process requires a lot of energy and also produces a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
Recycling aluminum requires much less energy because aluminum can be melted and reused many times without losing its properties. The aluminum melting process requires only a fraction of the energy required to produce virgin aluminum and does not produce the same greenhouse gas emissions.