PET bottles can also be used to produce lamps. And how? The Spanish designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón shows us how. He designed stylish lamps around the used bottles as part of a project in Bogota in Columbia.



The small runabout car Opel Adam is not only produced in Germany, it also offers a number of sustainable features. Old bottle caps from PET bottles have been made into car bumpers. Because the caps form the basis of a plastic granulate which is used to make, among other things, bumper mountings and headlamp housing.

Picture source: © GM Company



The Capped Out Chair from BRC Design consists of hundreds of colourful bottle caps. Benjamin Rollins Caldwell developed this creative armchair with great attention to detail. The former bottle caps are attached together with zip ties over a steel construction giving the chair its special structure and colourful appearance.



The Czech artist Veronika Richterová shows just what you can do with PET bottles if you have creative and innovative ideas. She makes fascinating sculptures out of used PET bottles – animals, plants, chandeliers, sofas and even a bra are included in her collection. She enjoys working with PET bottles because of their transparency and lightness and also of course because they are available everywhere. Richterová's PET art has already been on display for visitors to admire in exhibitions throughout Europe.



It was originally developed for use on US Navy ships, nowadays it is a classic design piece for dining rooms: the "Navy Chair" by Emeco. After 66 years, the company has decided to present the chair for indoors and outdoors in a new material and instead of using aluminium, to use recycled PET bottles. 111 bottles are delivered by Coca-Cola to make one chair. The new version from 60 percent recycled material is, thanks to PET, not only stylish but also environmentally friendly.



Used PET bottles can deliver even more – for example a light source for simple housings. How does it work? The idea comes from students from the University of St. Gallen. The plastic bottle is filled with water and a small amount of bleach and then installed in the roof of the hut so that half the bottle juts out above the top. The water in the bottle now diffuses the daylight in the entire room below the bottle. The illuminating power of the bottle is equivalent to a 55 watt light bulb.

More on the initiative Light of Light



Honduras, 2005. A poor village in the north of the province Yoro. A funny German guy walks around with brochures. He shows pictures of neat, colourful houses to poor people, the unemployed, day labourers who live in temporary, run-down huts. "You could also have one of these", he announces to the amazed village dwellers. It isn't much easier to believe him when he explains what the houses are made of and the conditions required to build them: you need lots of people. They need to have a lot of time to spare. And you need empty plastic bottles to build them.



It sounds incredible and yet so simple. With the help of the sun's rays and PET bottles, water is sterilized and made drinkable. The water is filled in transparent PET or glass bottles which are laid in the sun for 6 hours. In this time, the UV rays of the sun kill the germs that cause diarrhoea. The so-called SODIS method helps to prevent diarrhoea and so saves human lives. This is urgently required because over 4,000 children die every day from diarrhoeal diseases.

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The Taiwanese architect Arthur Huang developed a method in which plastic waste is moulded into hollow forms and can therefore be used again as building material. The walls of the "EcoArk" building in Taipeh consist of 1.5 million of these shapes.

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Myth No. 1: Glass bottles are more ecological than bottles made of PET.

That is not altogether correct. A host of different factors play a role in the complex life cycle assessment of packaging types, such as packaging material and weight, transport routes or recycling.

While reusable PET bottles have long been amongst the more environmentally friendly beverage containers, it has also been possible to continuously improve PET one-way bottles in ecological terms. In recent years, they have become increasingly environmentally friendly, in particular thanks to measures to reduce weight, increase recycling, shorten transport routes and cut down energy consumption during production. In 2010, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (ifeu) in Heidelberg discovered that the most common one-way PET bottles on the market, the 1.5-litre bottles for mineral water and carbonated soft drinks, were equivalent to reusable glass bottles in ecological terms.

Myth No. 2: PET drinks bottles contain plasticisers.

This assertion is incorrect. PET bottles do not contain plasticisers, as the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) declares on its website. The name polyethylene terephthalate has been wrongly linked to phthalates, although these and other plasticisers are not required at all for the production of PET bottles. The addition of plasticisers would make no sense anyway, since this would cause the bottles to lose their stability. This false assumption persists presumably because of the similarity of the names phthalate and polyethylene terephthalate.

Myth No. 3: Bisphenol A (BPA) is used in the production of PET bottles.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has also disproved this assertion, as BPA is not used in the production of PET bottles. Bisphenol A is one of a group of substances which can act like hormones and can occur in objects made of plastic. Bisphenol A, however, is not used to manufacture PET bottles.

Myth No. 4: Hormone-like substances pass over into the mineral water from PET bottles.

That is not strictly true. According to the BfR (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment), studies have found no differences in oestrogen activity in mineral waters from PET bottles and those from glass bottles. The activity detected in individual studies was identical in both packaging types and, in addition, around 10,000 times lower than natural oestrogen activity in beverages such as milk, beer or red wine. The BfR assumes that this low level of activity cannot be attributed to PET bottles.

Myth No. 5: Used PET bottles initially end up in reverse vending machines and are subsequently dumped.

Since the introduction of compulsory deposits on one-way beverage containers in 2003, retailers have been taking back compulsory-deposit PET bottles. Thanks to the deposit system, almost 99 per cent of compulsory-deposit PET bottles are collected, and this valuable material is recycled ‒ because PET is easy to recycle.

Myth No. 6: Used PET drinks bottles from Germany are exported to China in particular.

That is also not strictly true. A study carried out in 2015 by the Gesellschaft für Verpackungsmarktforschung mbH (GVM), specialists in market research in the packaging sector, concluded that around 80 per cent of PET recycling now takes place in Germany. The remaining quantities of reusable material largely go to neighbouring countries for recycling. The cost of transport to countries further afield is generally too high. Furthermore, the demand for recycling material is continuing to grow in Europe.

Myth No. 7: Recycled PET drinks bottles are used to make only poor-quality products.

This is not correct. Today, over 30 per cent of collected PET drinks bottles are transformed into precisely what they were before: the raw material for new PET drinks bottles. The GVM study mentioned above also comes to this conclusion. Further consumers include manufacturers of textile fibres (29 %) and industrial films (27 %). The remainder is used to make products such as belts or bottles for cleaning agents (11 %).

Myth No. 8: Mineral water from PET bottles does not taste natural.

This is also not correct. It is right to say, however, that acetaldehyde does pass over into the drink from the PET bottle, and that this can give even very small quantities a slightly sweet and fruity taste. This otherwise presents no risk to health, since acetaldehyde in water can be clearly smelt or tasted at levels of less than a hundredth of the legal limit. To ensure that the natural taste of mineral water is preserved, however, PET bottles in Germany contain blockers which prevent acetaldehyde from passing over into the water.

Incidentally, acetaldehyde also occurs naturally in fruit and other foods such as cheese, in some cases in considerably higher concentrations than in mineral water from PET bottles.

Do PET bottles contain plasticisers?

No, PET bottles do not contain any plasticisers. Consumers and press articles often incorrectly associate the name "polyethylene terephthalate" with plasticizers, but phthalates and other plasticisers are not required to manufacture PET bottles

Is Bisphenol A used in the manufacture of PET bottles?

No, Bisphenol A (in short BPA) is not used to manufacture PET bottles. Bisphenol A is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate from which baby bottles and plastic disposable tableware are made. BPA can also be used to manufacture epoxy resins which are used for the internal coatings of food cans, for example.

Does acetaldehyde in drinks from PET bottles have an effect on human health?

No, acetaldehyde from PET bottles does not represent any health risk. In the manufacture and storage of PET bottles, the substance acetaldehyde can arise. If acetaldehyde passes from the bottle to the drink, you can indeed taste and smell it in very small amounts – at least in mineral water. The legally stipulated maximum amount of material transfer of acetaldehyde in the EU is 6 mg per kg of foodstuff. Below this threshold, it is classified as not presenting any health risk. But you can taste it earlier because the sensory perceptibility threshold is less than a hundredth of this value.

Acetaldehyde is a natural component of fruit and other foodstuffs, such as cheese and butter. There are considerably higher concentrations of this substance in these foodstuffs than there are in mineral water from PET bottles. Apples or yoghurt contain 70 times as much and white bread 500 times as much as the acetaldehyde concentrates that have been published by leading institutes as being the sensory threshold (10 μg / l).

However, a change in taste or smell of the drink is neither desirable nor legally allowed. To prevent a sensory impairment of drinks by acetaldehyde, so-called acetaldehyde blockers can be used in the manufacture of PET bottles that bind the acetaldehyde in PET and do not cause any health risks or sensory impairments themselves. This means that hardly any acetaldehyde is transferred to the water and the perceptibility threshold of 10 μg / l is therefore not exceeded. In Germany, an additive approved by EU Regulation 10/2011 is used as an acetaldehyde blocker in many PET disposable and returnable bottles.

Why can antimony be detected in drinks from PET bottles? Is antimony harmful to health?

No, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has confirmed in a statement that antimony from PET bottles is not harmful to health. In the manufacture of PET, antimony is used as a catalyst. These minimum amounts used as a reaction aid can remain in the PET. A very small amount of antimony may transfer to the drink.

The threshold value for antimony in drinking water is 20 μg/l at an international level (WHO) and in Germany 5 μg/l. Even during long storage, the very low German threshold value cannot be reached in drinks packaged in PET.

Does PET have good barrier properties?

Yes, PET has good barrier properties. Food packaging made from PET is light, practical, unbreakable and recyclable. Furthermore, it has good barrier properties against undesirable substances. For example PET has proven itself to be a good barrier against mineral oils from packaging made of waste paper. (Final report on scientific study of BMELV "Ausmaß der Migration unerwünschter Stoffe aus Verpackungsmaterialien aus Altpapier in Lebensmitteln" - Level of migration of undesirable substances from packaging materials made of waste paper in foodstuffs), reporting period: 2 March 2010 – 31 May 2012)