Plastic bottle recycling

Plastic recycling is the process of recovering waste plastic and reprocessing it into new products. It plays a crucial role in reducing the environmental impact of plastic waste by diverting it from landfills and incineration, conserving resources, and minimizing pollution. Plastic recycling is challenge. Plastic recycling has been seen so complex that lots of materials end up in landfills and plastic is often transported across the globe to find markets for the recycled materials.

Recycling plastic is complex. There are many different types of plastic made from many different types of resins and processed differently during manufacturing of packages. Common plastics such as PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate), HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene), PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene), PP (Polypropylene), and others need to be sorted into distinct categories for the recycling to work. Some plastic types can be recycled better than other. For those easy to recycle plastic types plastic is typically first cleaned to remove contaminants, shredded or granulated into small pieces, melted, formed into pellets or granules. Those pellets of granules can be used to make new plastic products.

There are various challenges is plastic recycling, and in many locations it does not work too well. But there are is one recycling that works well in some countries: plastic bottle recycling. The first polyethylene terephthalate (PET) disposable soda bottle was introduced back in 1975. Creating a lightweight disposable bottle was more convenient for businesses as they do not break as easily as glass bottles and are lighter to transport, saving energy. A wide range of drinks, food products and other consumer goods are bottled in PET. The majority of bottles contain water or soft drinks, both still and carbonated.

The plastic packaging and beverage industry was encouraging recycling initiative, but in many places they are not widely recycled. All types of PET packaging, including bottles are usually marked with the recycle symbol 1.


There have been claims that plastic bottles cannot be recycled into new plastic bottles. Although this might have been largely true in the past, this is changed. Nowadays plastic bottles can be recycled, and they are recycled successfully in some countries. Although plastic bottle recycling certainly can reduce waste, in many countries lots of plastic is going to landfills. Just because a plastic bottle has recycling arrows on the bottom doesn’t actually mean it is recyclable in a given area.

Some countries have legislated a deposit for packaging including PET bottles. In the EU, deposit schemes average an 86% recovery rate. In Finland there is a DEPOSIT-BASED SYSTEM for plastic bottles, glass bottles and cans. There is return rate of more than 90%. In Finland 460 million plastic bottles are returned every year. In Finland plastic bottles are converted to PET plastic raw material (small plastic balls). This material is used to make new plastic bottles, food packages and other plastic products. Here is an example of Coca Cola bottle that is made 100% from recycled PET.


Finland’s system for returning beverage containers started in the 1950s, and today almost every bottle and can is recycled. The development of a bottle return system began in Finland with the arrival of Coca-Cola bottles at the 1952 Olympic Games. Today, 65 years later, Finland has the world’s best bottle deposit and return system – thanks to the model administered by Palpa. The system is based on a deposit: a fee that is returned to the consumer when they return a bottle or other drinks packaging.

Convenience is the cornerstone of the system’s success in Finland. Finnish residents returned more than two billion bottles and cans in 2020, 93 percent of the total amount purchased in the country. The factors that make this possible include automated bottle-return machines developed decades ago and the expansion of the system to include plastic bottles in the 2000s. Every time a person buys a beverage in a bottle or can, they pay a deposit of 15 to 40 cents. The system covers alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and bottled water, in aluminium cans, glass bottles and bottles made from PET plastic. People return most of the bottles they have. On average, every Finn returns 373 items in a year: 251 aluminum cans, 98 plastic bottles and 24 glass bottles. Any bottles that someone happens to leave behind on the street or in a park are snapped up by someone who returns them for the deposit money. Palpa’s turnover amounts to about 80 million euros, generated from material sales, recycling fees and charges for nonreturnable packaging.

In other Nordic Countries, beverage packages are recycled with the help of a national and general deposit-based system, as in Finland. Return rates are also high. Now a new EU Directive threatens Finland’s bottle return system that works very well. A new EU directive aimed at tackling plastic waste may lead to major changes to Finland’s bottle return system, according to Palpa, the company responsible for the collection, recycling and reuse of beverage packages. The directive requires that caps are connected to bottles at all stages of the product life cycle.

In USA there was some recycling activities also. It was time when CarbonLITE Industries recycled more than 2 billion PET bottles into food-grade post-consumer PET was one of the largest producers of food-grade recycled PET in the world. Then it went to bankruptcy in spring 2021.



  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Radikaali muutos tulossa: Sekajätteestä voidaan poistaa muovi ja metalli koneellisesti, Suomeen suunnitellaan nyt tällaista laitosta ensimmäistä kertaa
    Suomessa ei ole ennestään samanlaista jätteen esikäsittelylaitosta, mutta niitä on ainakin Saksassa ja Italiassa.


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