Sending PET bottles to landfill may prove the low-carbon option, report

Thursday 12 August 2010

Countries with adequate space and little recycling infrastructure, such as parts of the US and the UK, could lower their carbon footprint substantially by sending PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles to landfill – rather than recycling or incinerating them, say researchers.

SRI Consulting’s (SRIC's) report ‘PET’s Carbon Footprint: To Recycle or not to Recycle’, evaluated the carbon footprint of PET and rPET (recycled PET) bottles from production of raw materials through to incineration or disposal to arrive at this conclusion.

Report author Eric Johnson told that recycling or incineration were not always the most resource efficient and carbon footprint-friendly ways for certain countries to deal with waste bottles, given the transportation, packaging and processing costs involved.

Johnson said: “In terms of resource squandering [of oil in particular] if it takes more resources to recycle bottles or burn them than to produce units from virgin PET then this is irresponsible. If you’re going to recycle,we’re simply saying – ‘do it properly’.”

“Our study will irritate some environmentalists and figures within the industry, but it will please others too,” he added, pointing out that data from SRIC's study showed that sending PET "bottle systems" to landfill rather than incinerating them could reduce a given carbon footprint by up to 30 per cent.

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