This Is Plastics: BEYOND THE BOTTLE: Plastic Bottles Find a New Life as Consumer Products


BEYOND THE BOTTLE: Plastic Bottles Find a New Life as Consumer Products

Learn how plastic bottles are transformed into more sustainable consumer products beyond their initial use.


The value of a plastic bottle extends far past its initial use as a convenient, safe and sustainable container for beverages and other consumable products. Plastics are more sustainable throughout their lifecycle, in terms of water and energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, than alternative materials. Beyond their initial use, plastic bottles commonly find new lives as sustainable consumer products—in fact, recycled plastic bottles are more frequently upcycled into goods like clothing or furniture, rather than becoming plastic bottles again.

Click below to read more on how plastic bottles supply a circular economy to consumer products. 

Plastic bottles provide the platform for a circular plastics economy

Manufacturers of everyday consumer products like clothing and furniture utilize recycled plastic bottles to create more sustainable goods, furthering material circularity. Beyond providing consumers with more environmentally friendly options, this practice also supports the need for a better infrastructure in the United States as we work towards goals to increase recycling and reduce emissions, as recycling plastic requires 40 to 90 percent less energy than creating new plastic products.  

Check out some innovative ways manufacturers use plastic bottles to fashion everyday consumer products:

Sustainable Apparel

Plastic-based materials like polyester are staples in the apparel industry and have allowed companies to produce stylish and environmentally friendly clothing and footwear. The Girlfriend Collective is a mission-driven company that transforms post-consumer plastic bottles into high-performance activewear, using 25 bottles per pair of leggings and 11 bottles per athletic crop top. The company’s ReGirlfriend program also encourages customers to return old or damaged clothing so they are upcycled into new items. Popular footwear brands like Adidas turn plastic bottles recovered from the ocean into sneakers, using about 11 bottles per pair and diverting over 330 million plastic bottles from the ocean as of December 2020.

Environmentally Conscious Furniture

The furniture industry is also realizing the potential of recycled plastics for manufacturing more environmentally friendly products. Innovative companies are both diverting and recovering large quantities of plastic waste from landfills to produce sustainable products for workplaces and homes. For example, office space innovator ROOM creates portable, soundproof private meeting spaces that incorporate over 1,000 plastic bottles per room. A lifecycle analysis from Columbia University estimated that these meeting spaces can reduce an organization’s cumulative greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 33 percent over 10 years, further demonstrating the sustainable benefits of recycled plastics beyond waste reduction.

Based on shifting consumer expectations for household needs, companies are responding with more sustainable products by incorporating recycled plastic materials. Mexican furniture manufacturer Luken, which exports its products to the United States, relies on recycled plastics to create side tables and children’s furniture, using over 600 recycled plastic bottles per item. The company has repurposed over 10.3 tons of plastic waste to date. Furniture retailer Lovesac crafts its stylish plastic-based sectionals from 113 recycled plastic bottles. The company also diverted 25 million plastic bottles from landfills in 2020 alone.  

Moreover, popular furniture brands Pottery Barn and IKEA have fashioned entire product lines that rely on recycled plastic bottles. Pottery Barn launched a recycled plastics product line that includes stylish indoor and outdoor rugs that use up to 1,048 recycled plastic bottles per rug, and IKEA’s KUNGSBACKA line of kitchen cabinets and drawers uses about 25 recycled plastic bottles to craft the front doors. Innovative uses of recycled plastics like these are clear examples of the environmental benefits made possible when companies leverage the value of plastics throughout its lifecycle.  

Robust recycling systems are key to creating a more circular future

Communities can realize the full value of plastics by recovering and remanufacturing plastic products. To maximize recovery and minimize waste, it is critical that policymakers support investments in recycling infrastructure, both mechanical and advanced recycling technologies, like pyrolysis, that are capable of creating nearly 40,000 domestic jobs.

Plastics provide so much more value than just at their initial use and are proving to be ever more vital to circularity goals across the economy. Recycling plastic bottles ensures that these valuable materials remain in the economy, out of the environment, and find second lives as new products.

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