Know Your Plastics - Hi! I'm PETE and I'm Number 1

PET1

Have you taken a drink from a plastic bottle today? If so, you've already encountered today's plastic - Polyethylene terephthalate, otherwise known as PET or PETE. The plastic of choice for water and soft drink bottles, it's no surprise it's one of the most common plastics - the 4th highest by volume worldwide. Let's look at how it fits in the Retail Display field and when we can consider it for fixtures and fittings.

 

PET Recycle

PET IN THE WORLD TODAY

We've already mentioned drink bottles. There are several important properties making it an excellent plastic for bottles containing cold liquids. PET is extremely strong and has a high degree of transparency. It is almost completely impermeable to liquid and gas - the bubbles of your soft drink won't escape. It's also a plastic that is simple to recycle - it's plastic number one in the recycle symbols. 

PET is far more widespread though and its use for bottles came about quite late. More than double the volume of PET made today is for polymer fibres, which you will know as Polyester - everything from pillow filling, thermal insulation in coats and sleeping bags, and carpets. It's also found in some adhesive tapes, photographic film, even in solar cells! PET is everywhere.

SOME USEFUL PROPERTIES

So how about PET as a display plastic? Let's look at some other neat things about it.

  • Rigid AND flexible - PET is tough, but it has a high flexibility, so it is highly unlikely to shatter. Very important in a rough commercial environment - no unwanted sharp edges.  
  • Dimensional Stability - unlike other plastics that change size and shape over time, PET is very stable. If a millimetre is important, look at PET.
  • It doesn't leak chemicals - the components of PET won't end up in the materials it holds, so can be a suitable choice for items in direct contact with food.
  • Extremely easy to mold - if your display piece is unusually shaped, PET will give an excellent result. We get an excellent initial result, and the shape holds over time.
  • Coefficent of Friction is low - does your display have moving parts? Do things need to slide across it? Think of PET as a slippery plastic compared to most others - things will slide across it, rather than grab and wear the plastic

SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE

There are many things to like about PET. It's not perfect though!

  • It's getting hot in here - once the mercury approaches 70° C, PET softens. That's why your morning coffee isn't served in a drink bottle. Keep PET right away from food and drink that is warm. And don't put it in the microwave! If you've been microwaving last night's Chinese take-away for lunch - stop it! 
  • Transparency - while PET is very transparent naturally, if you are creating a unit where this is an important consideration, check out acrylic.
  • PET is not biodegradable - it recycles very well, but doesn't biodegrade. Depending on your application and its lifespan, this may influence your selection.

IN SUMMARY

PET is everywhere - it's inexpensive, tough, and multi-purpose. Consider it for food and liquid applications at normal temperatures, for items with moving parts, and in situations where stability of dimension and shape is very important. And when you've finished with it, please recycle.


Author profile

Steve Nelson believes in incredible retail spaces that sustain communities. Steve is a Retail Display specialist, who has worked with iconic retailers across the globe. As leader of Euroswift Retail Creations in Australia, his focus is delivering solutions and techniques that help retailers develop dexterity at the shop floor, to predict the needs of their local community and react rapidly. Connect with Steve on LinkedIn

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