PET flakes is constantly growing industry. PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate. In very simple words PET flakes are obtained from PET bottle wastes after a series of procedures. Such as sorting, washing, grinding, drying, etc. PET Bottles are the most commonly used product or commodity. It  is used for aerated drinks or simply packaged water bottles. Once the potential of these bottles is used they end up majorly into the landfills. Which contributes to the big chunk of waste. To reduce this waste, PET bottles are recycled into flakes or chips. 

We shall see in brief about PET flakes and their various applications. To know more about it, keep reading!

What are PET flakes? 

PET  (polyethylene terephthalate) flakes are membrane-like structures. They’re prepared from used PET bottles. They exhibit similar properties, such as chemical structure, microstructure, the permeability and hydrophilicity. These properties  make it very efficient for manufacturers to use  as raw material in the plastic industry. Chemical formula for PET flakes is (C10H8O4)n.

But how Is Polyethylene Terephthalate Made? Polyethylene terephthalate is made from ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol is usually called “MEG,” which stands for monoethylene glycol. So the PET is made from a combination of MEG and dimethyl terephthalate (DMT). 

Harmonized System (HS) for PET flakes:-

HS stands for Harmonized System. It is a standardised numerical method for classifying traded products. HS varies from country to country. Their HS code for PET flakes in India is 39076090.

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Uses of PET flakes 

uses of Pet Flakes

Pet flakes are widely used in the manufacturing of products used in our day-to-day life. It is very easy to notice that we have regular contact with these products made by PET flakes partially or entirely. Toothbrush, milk cans, water bottles,  food containers, packaging material, shampoo bottles, toys , clothing fibres, carpets, chairs etc. These are the regular products made from pet flakes.  Let’s see some examples of industries that use them:-

Industry Uses of PET flakes 
Packaging As PET sheet: Being temperature resistant, non-permeable( water proof) light weight makes it very efficient to use for packaging.            PET strap: PET strap is the best alternative to ropes; it is used in transportation and storage of materials on trucks and ships. PET straps having great tensile strength make it the best alternative for strapping the packaging material.
Textile PET flakes are transformed into staple fibre and yarn after producers like sorting washing, grinding drying, textile industry obtains its 44% of fibre from recycled pet bottles in form of pet flakes 
Cotton is known as poly cotton widely used in the textile industry. Poly cotton is an amalgamation of natural cotton and PET with a certain ratio.
Furniture They are widely used in furniture and other appliances. Its long durable strength standing capacity against moisture and rusting makes it capable of replacing wood and other metallic elements in use. These properties of pets make it more attractive for manufacturers to opt it for the production of furniture.
Pet flakes uses in industry

PET flakes grades

 As there are different grades of plastics similarly there are different grades of PET flakes. Different grades depend on where it is obtained from such as beverage bottles, water bottles, food containers and shampoo containers etc. In industry PET is identified by grade to check eligibility in further different sectors of use. For example the flakes obtained from shampoo containers cannot be used for manufacturing of edible category containers, hence these are identified by different grades systems. 

Grading system also checks the impurities that may be present. These impurities are measured in ppm( parts per million). These can be PVC, PE, wood, stone etc. These non-polymeric impurities can result in the quality of the end product.

Some grade are: 

  • Food grade
  • Bottle grade
  • Lower grade ( generally used to make carpets )
  • Fiber grade

Types of PET flakes

Types of pet flakes

PET flakes are generally obtained from different recycled plastic bottles and containers. Therefore they have different grades and colours. They come in colours like blue, green, white, etc. All of these PET have different properties, like melting and boiling point, durability, etc.

Type of PET Flakes Description 
White  flakesWhite PET flakes are used for manufacturing of products in the health and beauty sector like shampoo and hand wash bottles. At present it has great demand for hand sanitizer bottles due to increase in the  consumption of sanitizers.
Green flakesGreen flakes have great demand in the packaging industry and toy industry, green PET having great tensile strength make it very attractive for strap manufacture. It is one of the most important PET flakes among all. These flakes are also used in the manufacture of non alcoholic beverages.
Blue flakesBlue pet flakes are most wanted amongst other colours because of its usage and great quality and extensive use in textile industries. It is used in almost every sector of PET use such as the medical industry for packaging and manufacture of asphalt in the construction industry.
Clear flakesAlong with the PET quality it has the transparent appearance which helps to stand out in the packaging sector. Clear flakes are mainly used for water bottle manufacture and food container manufacturing. It also comes with good temperature resistance so making containers oven usesable.

Recycling Process of PET Flakes

recycling process of pet flakes

With a growing awareness of sustainable waste management recycling plays an important role. We are very well aware about the environmental problems created by plastic. Due to this there is a need for strict administrative regulations to explore various recycling techniques to handle plastic waste. Like any other polymers, the recycling of PET can also be divided into different categories. The recycling process takes place in following steps:-

  1. Manual sorting: 

Sorting into different categories and grades of pet bottles, different coloured bottles are separated for further processing. Removal of label, caps and bottle neck rings. As these bottles are post-consumed bottles it may contain food leftovers and other adhesive. It is further washed and dried for prevention of any contamination.

  1. Shredding : 

These plastic bottles are further processed into shredders. In this process shredders cut plastic bottles  into tiny membranous structures. Thus, shredders help recover waste during different industrial processes, such as moulding, trimming, and casting.

  1. Belt conveyor:

These shredded PET are now processed through a belt conveyor. It helps to get rid of dusty unwanted particles. Belt conveyor process is important to obtain uniformity in the raw material characteristics.

  1. Washing tank: 

Belt conveyors are connected to the washing tank where the PET materials get transferred. Here membranous PET is washed with caustic soda and NaOH resulting in the removal of any impurity. There are two types of washing involved in its manufacturing. It’s decided according to the desired grade.

  • Hot washing of PET flakes:- PET flakes are washed in a washing drive at a temperature of 75°C to 80°C warm water with detergent and Caustic soda. Hot washed ones are green, opaque, brown, transparent.
  • Cold washing of PET flakes:- Cold washed PET flakes is a resin PET Flake which has around 1% moisture. 
Recycling process image

                                              Recycling process of PET flakes

Difference between PET flakes and PET chips

  • PET flakes: They are pure materials made from recycled PET bottles by the process of cutting, crushing and cleaning. Other plastics like cap and label are separated before the treatment. 
  • PET chips: These are produced from recycling different PET wastes like PET flakes, polyester yarn waste, thermofrost sheets etc. 
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Market in India 

Even though the plastic waste in India is going overboard, there is very little raw material that reaches the recycling plant. If the recycling material is less, availability for PET flakes will also be considerably less. To cater with this less availability of raw materials for recycling the government of India raised a ban from the import of plastic waste for recycling which was imposed in 2019.

In order to import plastic waste for recycling one must have a licence which is issued by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change(MoEFC).

Your guide to acquire licence of plastic waste import

  • For the licence one must first apply to  the Director-General of Foreign Trade the consultation with the Department of Chemicals & Petrochemicals and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • The person applying must have a registered recycling unit under the state/central pollution control board.
  • The person applying should also have a pollution clearance certificate where the recycling unit is located, from the state/central pollution control board along with a capacity assessment certificate.
  • A certificate from the exporting factory.
  • A declaration certificate from the customs authority is also required stating that the imported product does not contain any toxic substances.
  • After this, the samples are analysed and tested for any contaminants.
  • After the sample tests are approved, a licence is granted.

So Documents required are:-

  • Import or export code issued by the Director general of foreign trade.
  • GST certificate
  • Pollution clearance certificate
  • Certificate from export factory
  • ID proof of the proprietor
  • Address proof of the proprietor
  • Invoice of the purchase.

Scope in India

It’s very much interesting to know that the PET recycling industry in India  had a turnover of around Rs. 3,500 crores in 2015. In 2020 the turnover was Rs. 5000 crores plus. The Indian recycling industry consists of both unorganised and organised recyclers. The PET recycling rate in India is 90%.

There are value-added products made from Recycled PET(RPET). The Indian PET recycling industry is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years, as RPET will also be used in direct food contact applications in the near future.In Fact, in the next 4-5 years, the Indian PET recycling industry’s turnover will be Rs 13,500 crores plus!

Advantages

PET polymers are highly resistant to moisture. Also PET is chemical resistant to organic material and water. Thus, it has a very high strength to weight ratio. It is highly transparent and comes in a variety of shapes and colours which offer a good choice in producing attractive products.

They  help conserve raw materials in many different industries.

  • Help us reduce the plastic waste in landfills by recycling them into flakes.
  • Are of great use in the concrete industry.
  • Are a great alternative in the fibre industry.
  • Are used in the furniture industry.
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Disadvantages

As we all know that PET is not a biodegradable plastic, which may be a disadvantage depending on the intended application. PET has lower heat resistance when compared to other polymers. Resins made from PET can oxidise, resulting in a degradation in the taste of food and beverages when the items have a long shelf life and are stored in PET packaging.

Conclusion

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) may seem useful but its impact on the environment is quite harmful, if left untreated. PET flakes are the byproducts of the recycled PET materials and can be further recycled to form PET chips. They are a multi-purpose commodity, which can be used in various industries like concrete, textiles, furniture etc. In order to Recycle PET waste and sell as flakes, one must have a valid licence issued by the MoEFC and CPCB.

FAQs on Pet Flakes

Ques 1:  What does PET stand for?

Answer:  PET stands for Polyethylene terephthalate.

Ques 2:  What are the uses of PET flakes?

Answer:  PET flakes are a multi-purpose commodity. It is used in various industries

          textiles, concrete, fibre, furniture etc.

Ques 2: Who issues the licence for plastic waste import?

Answer: The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change along with the central/state pollution control board issues the licence.

Ques 3: When was the ban on plastic waste import relieved and why?

Answer: The ban on plastic waste import was lifted in 2019, even though the use         of PET bottles is sky high in India, very few materials reach the recycling unit. To increase the availability of material for recycling the ban was lifted.

Ques 4: What is the process of recycling?

Answer: The process of recycling involves manual sorting, shredding, belt conveyor, washing tank.

Ques 5: What is the scope of PET flakes in India?

Answer: PET recycling rate in India is nearly about 90%. The turnover for PET recycling in India will be 13,500 Cr in the coming 4-5 years.

Ques 6: What is the difference between PET flakes and PET chips?

Answer: PET flakes are the pure commodity obtained from recycling PET waste whereas PET chips are obtained from recycled PET waste.

Ques 7: What are the types of PET flakes?

Answer: PET flakes are of various types like green, white, blue flakes and clear flakes.

Ques 8: What is a harmonised system code for PET?

Answer: The HS code for PET is 39076090.

Prajakta bhujbal
Author

Prajakta Bhujbal is an enthusiastic BSc Environmental Science student. She is a passionate reader and willing to share her thoughts with you. Today, at a peak of climate change, she strongly believes that it's the responsibility of each and every one to show an honest gratitude towards our mother earth.Her blogs aim to teach people about how our environment can become more beautiful with innovative designs of ideas and technology.

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