STOP DRINKING BOTTLED WATER!!

Or at the very least, RECYCLE YOUR BOTTLES!!

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THAILAND‘S Indorama Polymers plans to build what it says will be North America’s largest polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plant. Set to open in Decatur, Ala., by the end of 2008, the $140 million facility will add 430,000 metric tons of annual capacity for the plastic to the U.S. market.

Although not a well-known name in the chemical enterprise, Indorama already operates PET plants in the U.S., Europe, and Thailand. The company claims to be the world’s eighth largest PET producer and says it will rocket to number three following the construction of the new plant and expansion of existing ones.

The world’s number one producer, Italy’s Mossi & Ghisolfi Group, announced its own North American investment plan in July: an 800,000-metric-ton plant somewhere in the U.S. and 200,000 metric tons worth of expansion of existing facilities in West Virginia and Mexico.

Meanwhile, the number two producer, Eastman Chemical, opened a 350,000-metric-ton PET plant in South Carolina earlier this year, although it announced plans to close an equal amount of older capacity. The firm has said it is considering opening another U.S. plant by 2009.

According to Indorama CEO Aloke Lohia, the world needs more PET production capacity to serve growing carbonated soft drink, water, and custom-container markets. “We see a looming PET shortage in 2009 as each region in the world heads toward self-sufficiency,” he says. Indorama notes that it is currently importing PET from Asia to meet demand on the U.S. West Coast.

It is sad that we can justify building more of these plastic-producing plants when we [in the U.S.] recycle only 17% of our PET bottles. Especially when our tap water is actually pretty damn good. Interesting factoid: “US water quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency for tap water, for example, are more stringent than the Food and Drug Administration’s standards for bottled water.”

[Chemical & Engineering News; Waste Management World]

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