PET Foams - closing the loop




The plastic bottle in our story is one of the more than 16,000 sold every second around the world. This bottle is not one of the millions that end up in a landfill or somewhere in the environment, taking hundreds of years to decompose. Our bottle is reborn. The story of our plastic bottle is about switching from the conventional ‘make-take-dispose’ economy to a circular model based on ‘reduce-reuse-recycle’. It’s about closing the loop in plastics production.

We are innovating to boost sustainability and working towards a circular model. Reusing our plastic waste is one way for us to improve our environmental footprint.


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Message in our bottle




Single-use plastics are a major eco-challenge. Fortunately, there’s a growing awareness among many consumers that the ‘grab-go-throw’ behaviour of past decades has to stop.

Our bottle started life as a beverage container. Once empty, it was thrown into a litterbin or may have been returned to a retailer’s collection point. That’s where our bottle’s story takes a turn. It was collected for recycling and forwarded to an Armacell plant in Thimister-Clermont, Belgium or Brampton, Canada or Suzhou, China. The message in our bottle? There are sustainable alternatives to single use.


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Ready for recycling




Our bottle is now ready for recycling by Armacell, the pioneer of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) technology. It’s one of the 2,000,000,000 billion PET bottles Armacell already recycled for production purposes. Decades of R&D have made Armacell the leading innovator in PET foam technology and sustainable development, the inventors of a technology enabling PET foam products made entirely from recycled beverage bottles.


Our little hero started life as a single-use PET bottle and is reborn as a long-lifetime, high-value foam core material for composite structures. This is how the conversion takes place:

1. PET bottle collection.
2. Sorting and crushing into flakes.
3. Inhouse granulation process.
4. Extrusion foaming operations.
5. Use-phase in a variety of applications.



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Put to good use




You wouldn’t recognise our PET bottle any more. Just look at the useful, high-value foams it’s been converted into:

ArmaPET Struct structural foam boards for composite sandwich application. 
ArmaPET Eco for semi-structural insulating application.
ArmaPET Curve extruded thin flexible sheets for thermoforming application.
ArmaPET Shape particle foam for 3D shaped foam parts on industrial scale.

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The sustainable factor. Today, the sustainability of individual components is becoming a compelling argument in the materials selection process. The trend of designing environmentally friendly composite structures that are light, strong and recyclable has led industrial designers, specifiers and composite manufacturers to replace traditional core materials, such as Balsa, SAN, PUR or PVC with ArmaPET. And Armacell’s R&D specialists are continually striving to develop more innovative products with a sustainable future.

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From bottle to bullet train




Our recycled PET bottle’s second life is an exciting one. Following the conversion into an ArmaPET product, it is utilised in a wind turbine, walkway, surfboard or high-speed train.

150,000 rotor blades globally. ArmaPET Struct is used in sandwich structures for rotor blades, nacelles and spinners of wind turbines. Did you know that more than 50,000 PET bottles are required to produce the quantity of ArmaPET Struct required for the three 50-metre-long rotor blades of a 3MW wind turbine?

47,000m2 of building envelope. ArmaPET Struct was installed as the core material for the 3,180 facade panels of the King Abdullah KAFD World Trade Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Five gilded domes. ArmaPET Struct was used as a core material in the five gilded domes of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Paris, France. The domes were manufactured off-site and it took 15 minutes to put the largest dome, spanning 12 metres in diameter, in place by crane.

One very fast train. ArmaPET Struct is found in the nose of the CRH3A bullet train connecting the 700km distant cities of Chengdu and Xi’an in Western China in less than four hours. The CRH3A’s success put an end to flights between the two cities and reduced the carbon footprint on this route.

We are striving for a circular model where plastic waste is designed out and products kept in use longer.


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Good for our planet




Our PET bottle is proud of its eco-balance. With a little help from our unique recycled PET foam technology this bottle delivers 37% CO2 emission savings compared to foams made of virgin PET. Such positive effects are amplified when compared with other polymeric foams.


By reusing 2,000,000,000 PET bottles in our foaming process we have saved more than 90,400 metric tons of CO2 emissions. This is equivalent to the emissions of around 94,600 flights from Brussels to New York.


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If our bottle had been thrown into one of Amsterdam’s famous canals, it might well have been fished out by a Plastic Whale. This sustainability initiative organises boat trips along Amsterdam’s grachten in vessels made of our ArmaPET Struct foams. The photo shows a team of Armacell employees and distributors fishing for plastic.

Closing the loop. The Plastic Whale story is about closing the loop in plastics production. After all, plastic bottles are converted into an ArmaPET  product that is used to build a boat that collects plastic waste. Having started in The Netherlands, the Plastic Whale team is today aiming to involve people around the globe to collect plastic waste and turn it into amazing products. And Armacell is right at the heart of this.


Sustainability partnerships. Armacell has entered into multiple EU-wide and global partnerships to improve the sustainability of plastics. For example, we are a research partner in the EU-funded PlastiCircle project to improve plastic packaging waste collection, transport, sorting and recycling rates across Europe. And we are part of the PlastiCircle network to find new opportunities for post-consumer PET sourcing and its conversion into full-value products. We are also a partner in Operation Clean Sweep, a global product stewardship programme aiming to drive best practices in plastic material loss management.


Sharing technology. As another way of contributing to higher recycling rates beyond our own production, we are sharing our technology by granting licenses to other PET foam producers in the composite industry to drive and accelerate adoption rates by operating Armacell’s patented process technology in their manufacturing. Opening our unique technology to others ramps up Armacell’s contribution to a greener tomorrow.


What can you do to reduce plastic waste? None of us can save the world on our own. But every step on the way helps – step by step to create a greener future.


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