Plastic Facts & Statistics
Statistical Data and Research
For recycling, wasting, sales, and consumption of plastic beverage containers, see the Plastic Data.
Need more in-depth information about plastic container sales and recycling in any or all of the United States? Consider requesting a Beverage Market Data Analysis.
What is PET?
PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, is a thermoplastic polymer resin that is commonly used in beverage and food containers.
What is the average recycled content in PET bottles?
A significant amount of recycled PET content is used to make “fiber” for clothing and carpet, but the second most popular use of the material is recycled content in food and beverage bottles. Recycled PET is also used for sheet and film, strapping, and non-food bottles, like shampoo.
According to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), 5,764 million pounds of PET bottles and jars were available for recycling in 2013. About 85% of those bottles are used for food and beverages, or 4,899 million pounds. NAPCOR reported that 369 million pounds of recycled PET bottles were used in 2013 to make new food and beverage bottles. CRI used this information to calculate the national average recycled content for PET for food and beverage containers:
369 million pounds of recycled PET (rPET) content was reused for food and beverage containers in 2013. Therefore, 369/4,899 = 7.5% maximum post-consumer recycled content for food and beverage containers 2013 in the U.S. NAPCOR notes that end-use data “reflected rPET consumption by converters in both the US. and Canada,” so the actual recycled content number is lower than 7.5% to an unknown extent.
Some brands use as much as 100% recycled content in their PET bottles. Here is a list of companies that use PET bottles for beverages and the percent of recycled content used in their packaging:
- Nestle ReSource Water – 100% recycled content in this brand of bottled water
- Mountain Valley Spring Water – 35% recycled content
- Naya Water – 100% recycled content
- Eldorado Water – 100% recycled content
- Naked Juice – 100% recycled content in all sizes of products
- Activate Water – 100% recycled content
Here is a list of companies that use PET bottles for non-beverage products and the percent of recycled content used in their packaging:
- Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems - 100% recycled content in all bottles of nutritional supplements
- Portico Spa - 100% recycled content in all bottles of shampoo, conditioner and lotion (non-food bottles)
- Organic Girl – 100% recycled content in all food containers
Life Cycle Assessments
Sustainability Metrics: Life Cycle Assessment and Green Design in Polymers
2010 peer-reviewed paper that uses life cycle assessments to compare the environmental impacts of 12 different polymers (including bioplastics) when "green design principles" are applied to their manufacture.
Life Cycle Inventory of Recycled Plastic
2010 study on the environmental impacts of processing and using recycled PET and HDPE, including energy requirements, solid wastes, and atmospheric and waterborne emissions.
Download report [pdf, 273kb]
Life Cycle Inventory of Soft Drinks in Glass, Aluminum, and PET
A 2009 study of glass, aluminum, and PET soft drink containers found PET bottles produced less solid waste, less greenhouse gas emission, and used less energy than the other two container types. The study covered production of the containers and end-of-life uses, but did not include data on post-fabrication transportation to the filling site, filling, distribution, storage, retail use and consumer use.
More info | Download report [pdf, 484kb]
Life Cycle Inventory of PET and PLA
October 2012 | Check out this presentation from the Surfrider Foundation Rise above Plastics Speaker Program about plastic waste and litter. Watch the video on our site here
Water, Water Everywhere
Sales of bottled water in the U.S. are going up, up and up. In the three years between 2002 and 2005, sales doubled from from 15 billion units sold, to 29.8 billion. This is almost seven times the 3.8 billion units sold in 1997. At the same time, traditional fizzy drinks are losing market share. What does this all mean? More PET bottles produced, more wasted, and a smaller percentage recycled. Download the report [PDF,542Kb]
The Truth About Bottled Water
CRI's page on bottled water, which was set up in honor of National Drinking Water Month in May 2005, contains several useful articles on plastic water bottle wastage and recycling, and links to sites explaining alternatives to drinking bottled water.
Did you know?
Around 899 thousand tons of PET plastic bottles were recycled nationwide in 2013, but more than two times as much PET was wasted: 2 million tons.*