Plastics, especially clear bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate, are abundant throughout the United States. The National Association for PET Container Resources asked ERG to determine the potential life cycle environmental impacts of producing this material.
ERG developed a cradle-to-resin life cycle model for U.S. average industry production of virgin PET resin. We first worked with major U.S. producers to collect up-to-date information on the production of the resin and precursor chemicals. We then quantified energy and resource use, water consumption, solid waste, and environmental impacts for each step in the life cycle of PET resin produced from purified terephthalic acid. We developed a report summarizing findings, and provided data to the USLCI database. These open-source, publicly available data give researchers and organizations access to high-quality information for modeling PET-based product life cycles.
ERG also leveraged results from its previous study on recycled PET resin (conducted for the Association of Plastic Recyclers) to create a simple calculator to understand the environmental implications of using PET sourced from virgin versus recycled content.