What Happened to Green Plastic Bottles?

October 6, 2022

Why are companies moving away from green plastic bottles?

By Catherine Haub

In a milestone precedent, Coca-Cola is going away from green PET, switching to clear PET. In the coming months, Sprite, Seagrams, Fresca, and Mellow Yellow will no longer reside in their iconic green bottles but instead found in clear ones [1]. Many may wonder why they would make the decision and how clear PET is more sustainable than green PET though they are the same material. 

There is nothing wrong with green PET  in that it still has the same chemical makeup as clear PET does. The issue is that the market for green PET is much lower due to how much less you can do with it than with it. At Placon, we only send the green PET to other companies every 2-3 months, and in 2021 recovered and sold 175k pounds of green PET. While that seems like a lot, it is a small percentage compared to how much clear PET Americans go through in a year. Simply put, there are not enough green PET bottles for it to make economic sense to make rolls of green PET, resulting in them being much less desirable to recycle. There is more clear and light blue PET produced and recycled than green, and with how little green PET is recycled, it would not make sense from an economic standpoint for Placon to have a line just for making green PET rolls. That is why we work with a company like Plastic Supplier that processes the green bottles we receive and likely pelletizes that material to resell it for other uses such as strapping and other green or mixed color PET products. We purchase bails that have green bottles in them from curbside recycling, and once that bale gets broken up, they go through the prewash like the clear bottles. Once they get to the optical sorters, they get removed and sent to a separate grinder, and after that, they get sent off to another company that prepares them for selling. Though the green PET does get made into other products, those products cannot be recycled and are thrown away after use, resulting in a more open-loop process instead of a closed-loop. The issue lies with the green dye added to the material, making it much harder to recycle. Green bottles tend to make the PET roll yellow, resulting in a roll that looks dirty even though it has gone through the normal washing process. While clear recyclables come out yellow the more they are recycled, we don’t want to add other colored materials to the mix. Blue PET is the only exception, as the cool blue hues counteract the warm yellow hues that recycled PET produce. 

With all of this in mind, it makes sense why Coca-Cola would want to make that switch, especially as they have been making notable sustainable moves in recent years.

[1]Sprite will no longer be sold in green bottles | CNN Business

For 55 years, Placon has been a leading designer and manufacturer of custom and stock plastic packaging for the food, medical, and retail markets. Placon has manufacturing operations in Madison, WI; Elkhart, IN; Plymouth, MN; and West Springfield, MA, and currently ranked in Plastics News 2020 Thermoformers Ranking Top 20. Placon delivers packaging breakthroughs that inspire better engagement between people and products with industry leading innovation and award-winning packaging designs. For more information, visit www.placon.com.