Long after you’ve quenched your thirst with that bottle of mineral water, the environment continues to pay for decades to come. The container’s H20 can last all of five minutes, but the bottle itself sticks around for hundreds of years.
In the beginning, there was oil
Looking at the lifecycle of plastic water bottles, it all starts with oil – 17 million barrels of oil per year to be precise. Most bottles are made with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, which is manufactured from crude oil. Yes, the same oil we need to keep our planes in the sky and 1 billion-odd vehicles on the road. Apart from the fact that our oil reserves are running low, the by-product of crude is greenhouse gasses.
The miracle of plastic
Manufacturers use the distilled oil to create small plastic pellets which, in turn, gets melted down to create tubes. These tubes are heated and expanded by the water bottling companies to make containers that fit their requirements. When they are recycled, they’re melted back down to plastic pellets again. That is, if they get recycled and the majority of plastic bottles don’t.
Drinks on wheels
Continuing its journey from the oil refinery to the shop shelves, these bottles also have to be transported by truck, boat or train. Again, using more oil and emitting carbon dioxide, which is responsible for climate change.
After consumption, only a small percentage gets recycled and the rest, unfortunately, ends up in landfills where the average time for some of these bottles to degrade is around 450 years.
It’s a shame that more plastic doesn’t get recycled as they could’ve ended up repurposed into a warm fleece jacket or blanket!