VEOLIA’s photo library - Alexis Duclos

Cradle to cradle - ageing well in the bottle in Rostock

Posted on 05 November 2015.

In Rostock in Germany, a recycling plant uses the “bottle to bottle” system. Old plastic bottles are being put back into the food packaging cycle.

One billion recycled bottles equal 31,000 tons of oil saved, 113,000 CO2 equivalent metric tons avoided - the annual emissions produced by 20,500 people in France.

Look carefully at your favorite bottle of sparkling water. You won’t be able to tell, but it may be a reincarnation living a second life – and mean the end of plastic being buried in Europe by 2020. This ecological miracle will be made possible thanks to a recycling center that is applying the cradle to cradle principle to plastic bottles. In a way, it’s the advent of bottle to bottle!

70% of CO2 saved with recycled PET

Veolia has very special plant in Rostock, a German city stretching to the Baltic Sea renowned for its charming harbor and the Hanse Sail - a traditional sailing ship festival. The Rostock plant recycles bottles that will safely contain new drinks. More importantly, it reduces the carbon footprint of the plastic known as PET, polyethylene terephthalate, used to make bottles for sparkling water. By recycling them, 70% of the CO2 emissions are saved compared to using standard virgin PET - not to mention the saving in raw materials. One metric ton of recycled PET granules are equivalent to 113,000 tons of CO2 emissions avoided. And the Rostock plant recycles over one billion plastic bottles every year!

Flakes that don’t waste energy

To give old bottles a new life as food packaging, they have to be collected and transported to Rostock. Hence the importance of sorting waste at home. When they arrive at the plant, the bottles are shredded into flakes and then washed in hot water. A mechanical and chemical recovery process will make them suitable for food use. A step that prevents the need for melting them, which wastes energy. Finally, the PET flakes are delivered to bottle manufacturers. It is up to beverage producers to opt for this recycled packaging. And up to consumers to give their favorite drink an environmentally friendly second life by choosing recycled PET bottles with the rPET mark.