At Hagemann Elementary in North Carolina, an innovative type of recycling technology was used to help densify PET bottles generated from the school and brought from home. PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate, which is a type of plastic labeled with the #1 code on the bottom of the bottles and containers. PET is commonly used to package soft drinks, water, juice, peanut butter, salad dressing, cosmetics, and household cleaners. Hageman targeted PET bottles because of the lack of a suitable curbside recycling program in the surrounding community. A bottle densification machine, approximately the size and shape of a large vending machine, was used in the school cafeteria to recognize PET bottles, perforate and flatten them and store them prior to transportation to a regional PET plastic recycling plant. This allowed boxes of partially compacted bottles to be shipped directly to a plastics processor without the need for transporting bottles from the school to a local MRF. Contests were used as incentives between classrooms for the largest quantity of PET bottles brought from home. Prizes, including T-shirts and fanny packs, were provided to the classrooms that collected the greatest number of PET bottles per student.
The Hagemann Elementary School recycling project has resulted in the recycling of over 1,100 pounds of PET bottles of all shapes and sizes.