Poly(ethylene terephthalate) Outdated: Is the World Ready for a New Plastic?
This paper explains the structure of polymer poly(ethylene terephthalate) also known as
PET. It states the properties of the plastic as well recycling methods. My goal was to find
out what makes PET the number one plastic, both in consumption as well as the most
recycled. I also searched for new polymers that are being created by scientists and
compare them to PET to see if there was a plastic out there that is better for the
environment. I found a few alternatives that would be able to replace PET but aren’t
being used. I also found a fire-proof polymer called BHDB which can replace the
previously used polymer.
Poly(ethylene terephthalate), a plastic found in soda bottles, peanut butter jars,
and even pillow and sleeping bag filling , is the most used and recycled plastic. As
Americans we use about 2.5 million plastic bottles per hour. Most of this plastic that we
are using, though, ends up not only in land fields but in oceans and other undesirable
places, only a small portion of it is actually recycled. Plastic are long chains of polymeric
molecules. Unlike paper or other compounds, plastics are commonly used for their
qualities such as durability weight, processibility, cost, corrosion, and impact resistance.
The basic composition of polymers includes oil, coal and natural gas though recently they
have been more petroleum-based. About 140 million tons per year are produced and a
lot of that ends up as waste in land fields .
There are many characteristics PET has that contribute to the popularity of this
polymer. Among those characteristics are lightweight, low density, low cost, mechanical
toughness, durability, and impermeability. The cost of PET stands out a lot, the cost for
making PET is basically cents per pound and companies like this. Over 8 million pounds
of PET is manufactured in the U.S. alone. It is also the only polymer that can be
chemically recycled back to its starting material. It can also be downcycled, made into
other materials, some of those materials include polyoflefins, polystyrene, and tire
rubber. Recycling and downcycling all help reduce energy consumption. By recycling
you don’t have to make new materials and in doing so save the energy required for doing
The basic molecular structure or poly(ethylene terephthaleate) can be seen in
figure one. This basic structure is repeated to form PET plastic. PET is made of polymers,
which contain co-monomers such as ethers, amide and aliphatic monomers. Having these
monomers makes it easy to biodegrade especially through the process of hydrolysis,
which is decomposition by the usage of water.
Some polymers, such as Poly(ethylene terephthalate), are easily degraded through
photo, thermal or biological means. Photo degradation uses UV light to degrade
polymers. Two major factors are time and heat. Those two...