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Ever imagine that you could take a load off on a can of ginger ale? Slip into a comfortable pair of plastic root beer bottles? It's very possible thanks to ingenious companies that take old soda bottles and cans and viola! A fetching new pair of shoes, a dining room chair, a new distraction for Fido, or even a solar oven. Next time you haul that spent six-pack to the recycle bin, keep in mind that those empties can come back to haunt (or help, rather) you in a great green way.

Find it! Products made from recycled soda cans and bottles


Quench your insatiable thirst for sustainable shopping by checking out the below items crafted from recycled soda containers, both aluminum and plastic. Ranging from utilitarian to decorative, these are just a small taste of the items giving new life to potential landfill cloggers.

Before you buy

When buying certain products, you may be unwittingly investing in recycled soda containers. For example, the fiber for outdoor jackets, carpeting, and sleeping bags is often derived from reclaimed soda bottles. It requires one 2-liter soda bottle to yield the fill for a ski jacket and 35 soda bottles to be transformed into sleeping bag stuffing. An impressive one-third of carpeting is made from reclaimed polyethylene terephthalate (PET).[1] Feeling dressy? It takes 26 PET bottles to make a polyester suit.[2] If you want to ensure that such products are made from recycled content, simply ask the manufacturer or retailer pre-purchase.

Buying products made from recycled soda containers helps you go green because...

  • With 1 billion pounds of PET bottles and 51.5 billion aluminum cans (two thirds containing soft drinks and juices) recovered in 2004, you can help give these containers a second life.[3]
  • By supporting the recycled product industry you ensure that aluminum cans and plastic bottles are steered clear of landfills. By recycling 1 pound of PET bottles, around 12,000 Btu of heat energy is saved.[2]
  • Buying products made from recycled soda containers—or any recycled material for that matter—eliminates the need for virgin materials, particularly oil. These materials pose severe environmental threats in their procurement and manufacture.

Thanks to an impressive amount of companies integrating recycled materials into a wide variety of products, consumers no longer have to struggle too hard in making buying recycled a "PET project". From made-in-Canada tote bags to an Ohio-based purveyor of promotional products, companies are making good green use out of used soda containers, specifically PET bottles and aluminum. In addition to making it easier for consumers to buy recycled by default, they're preventing the 2 million plastic containers used every minute and 65 billion aluminum soft drink cans from entering landfills.[4][5] In total, 73 percent of soda sold in 1999 was in 2-ounce aluminum cans, 27 percent in plastic bottles of various sizes, and less than 1 percent in glass bottles.[5]

An eco-exemplary company reclaiming plastic soda bottles for reuse is Mohawk Flooring. The company runs the world's largest integrated plastic bottle recycling facility in Georgia. US consumers recycle 30 percent of their plastic bottles, 25 percent of which Mohawk buys and transforms into their popular everSTRAND carpeting. In total, this bright green company takes in 215 million pounds of plastic bottles annually.[6]

Patagonia is another company at the forefront of the PET fiber movement. Since incorporating polyester made from discarded soda bottles into their woodsy-chic clothing in 1993, the company estimates that upwards of 86 million soda bottles have been diverted from landfills—that's more than enough oil to fuel a Chevy Suburban 20,000 times.[7]

Recycling straight-up

Plastic soda bottles are not biodegradable. When they end up as trash in landfills, they stay there for up to 700 years before beginning to decompose.[2] Recycling plastic bottles reduces the amount of trash clogging landfills, and limits the environmental exposure to chemical contaminants from products like soap, hair dye, and cleaning products that can seep into the soil and contaminate ecosystems.[8] Recycling plastics also saves energy. One recycled plastic bottle conserves enough energy to power a light bulb for up to three hours.[9]

Aluminum beer and soft drink cans accounted for 1.4 million tons of waste in 2005; 0.7 million tons were recovered for recycling.[10] The recycling of a single soda can save enough energy to run a computer for up to three hours.[11] In terms of detrimental eco-impact, the aluminum can trumps the plastic bottle.[5]

Glossary

  • Btu (British Thermal Unit) A unit of energy used universally in the heating and cooling industries. It is defined as the unit of heat required to raise 1 pound of water by 1° F
  • polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE): Plastic polymer in the polyester family, mainly derived from petroleum and used by the chemicals industry for bottles, textiles, and industrial moldings. Has a resin code of #1 for plastics recycling. One of the main plastics used by the beverage industry for plastic bottles for retail sale.

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