No sorting hat, but a sorting machine: better flakes for easier sorting
After various washing and drying processes, we are ready to enter the AUTOSORT® FLAKE and INNOSORT FLAKE sorters. Here, non-PET and colored PET flakes are ejected based on their spectral and color properties. Even though I am as small as two millimeters, TOMRA’s FLYING BEAM® technology still picks up on me and other polymer particles just as small – and thus reduces the loss of PET flake material. TOMRA’s flake sorters are the most advanced solution to sort such small flakes like myself.
Should you choose to work with these machines, you will be playing a vital role in producing more reusable flakes and, consequently, promote a higher level of sustainability. Depending on the market location, they can also effectively process my PO-colleagues, which are becoming increasingly important and one of the main target materials of TOMRA’s updated INNOSORT FLAKE, which is 2m wide and equipped with a special sensor for PO sorting.
In the next step, after being picked up and purified, we are transported to an extruder. In the hot machine, we are melted and pulled into long, spaghetti-like strings. At the end of the extruder, a cutting die cuts us into small pellets or granules – usually under water. After a short air transport ride, the pellets arrive at a big-bag filler ready to be sold. Finally, after this life-changing and shape-altering process, I am excited for my make-over into a brand-new bottle – or maybe something else? I am looking forward to seeing what life has in store for me.
Shaping the future with injection molds
Depending on what shape of bottle I am becoming, I am injected into different molds. The company buying the pellets – which might even be the one making the pellets – puts me into injection mold machines. There, a "pre-form" is made, a small version of who I will become later on. I already have the threaded bottleneck of the size of my final bottle form.
In my pre-form, I am blown into a mold using high air pressure and heat – finally I can take my final form, fully grown and shaped as the bottle I was meant to be from the moment my previous owner used me.
After the extraction stage, I could have become anything, given any sort of new purpose. For me, this is the most exciting part. I have fulfilled a purpose to now be rewarded with another one.
As is, I was lucky to be made into another bottle. Maybe instead of serving iced tea, I am a water bottle now, helping someone under the hot Spanish sun. Maybe I am an iced latte, getting an ambitious student through a night of studying. Or maybe I am a fun juice bottle given to a kid on the playground – either way, I am thankful I can experience life again and fulfil a purpose once more.
How to save a bottle's life by giving it a second chance
Even though I was grinded into tiny flakes and reorganized, I am thankful for the experience at your facility. I have come back to life as a new bottle, all thanks to the considerate human beings involved. Only through proper disposal and subsequent recycling can I be given a second chance, ready to once more supply someone with a drink. That is why bottle-to-bottle recycling is particularly sustainable, as no new plastics need to be involved at all.
As you can see, it takes very little effort to start the recycling process – a single person is all it takes. But without plant owners like you, my second life would have never been made possible. The future, thus, does not only rely on the jogger and their water bottle or the children drinking juice at the zoo, it also relies on you and your responsibilities as a facility owner. Through your sorting, washing, shredding, melting and re-shaping, it is possible to offer bottle-to-bottle recycling.
While recycling starts with the individual, it is continued through the help of many people. Considering that a single facility might save as much as 31,000 liters of crude oil equivalence per year, recycling bottles is certainly a more sustainable, environmentally friendly bottle manufacturing process than making new PET bottles.