Exploring Comparative Energy and Environmental Benefits of Virgin, Recycled, and Bio-Derived PET Bottles

Mary Biddy, Pahola Benavides, Jennifer Dunn, Jeongwoo Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus Citations


Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a common plastic resin used to produce packaging, notably plastic bottles. Most PET bottles are produced from fossil fuel-derived feedstocks. Bio-derived and recycling-based pathways to PET bottles, however, could offer lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than the conventional route. In this paper, we use life-cycle analysis to evaluate the GHG emissions, fossil fuel consumption, and water consumption of producing one PET bottle from virgin fossil resources, recycled plastic, and biomass, considering each supply chain stage. We considered two routes to produce bottles from biomass: one in which all PET precursors (ethylene glycol and teraphthalic acid) are bio-derived and one in which only ethylene glycol is bio-derived. Bio-derived and recycled PET bottles offer both GHG emissions and fossil fuel consumption reductions ranging from 12% to 82% and 13% to 56%, respectively, on a cradle-to-grave basis compared to fossil fuel-derived PET bottles assuming PET bottles are landfilled. However, water consumption is lower in the conventional pathway to PET bottles. Water demand is high during feedstock production and conversion in the case of biomass-derived PET and during recycling in the case of bottles made from recycled PET.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)9725-9733
Number of pages9
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2018

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-71562


  • bio-derived PET bottle
  • life-cycle analysis
  • recycled-based PET bottle
  • water consumption


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