Think on this: in the time it takes you to take a swig from a plastic bottle, a staggering 20,000 of them are thrown away. Worldwide, there are more than 1,300,000,000 bottles sold every day, with only 6% of them being recycled and many ending up in the oceans.
Manufacturers in the Netherlands have hit upon an innovative solution to bring a second life to plastic bottles by transforming them into PET Felt. PET—or polyethylene terephthalate, to use its technical name—is a thermoplastic polymer resin that allows manufacturers to utilise plastic waste in their products, turning it into a sustainable, versatile, and durable material that can be moulded into any shape.
Bottles—in some cases fished from the canals of Amsterdam—arrive to the recycling centres in 250kg densely pressed bales, that are teased apart, cleaned and sorted.
Next, the bottles move into a granulator machine that shreds them into 1cm flakes. Meanwhile, the granulator removes all remaining debris to produce pure PET flakes, ready for the next phase of their transformation.
The PET flakes now travel through an extruder, melting them and forming polyester fibres with a soft wool-like texture. Colour can be added at this point. The fibres are then cut into thin sheets to prepare them for felting.
The felting machine folds the fibre into layers and compresses it. Then, thousands of barbed needles stab the material, turning it into felt. Multiple felt sheets are next merged together to create a dense mat, ready for pressing.
In a single moulding action, the 3D pressing machine turns a sheet of felt into a sturdy form, preserving its soft wool-like texture. PET Felt can take any shape—chair shells, seats, and backs, dividers, lampshades, even tables! The felt also has excellent sound dampening properties, making it ideal for acoustic products such as wall panels and baffles.
The resultant products are innovative and sustainable. The possibilities are endless.
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