Life Cycle Of A Plastic Water Bottle

October 27, 2021
Sustainability

A lot of us are switching to reusable products — including water bottles — to be  sustainable, but there are situations where single-use bottles are more appropriate and  necessary. These instances are where the plastic water bottles mainly apply, such as in an  emergency evacuation in a natural disaster, where people would have to leave suddenly.

Alternatively, if there was no running water in a community because of a damaged water  pipe or contamination of the water supply then the disposable plastic bottles come in handy.

Given that plastics are not going to be completely phased out of our lives for a while,  particularly plastic water bottle items, let us have a look at the life cycle of a plastic water  bottle. We shall undertake this task through thorough intel on the manufacturing,

processing, distribution, consumption, disposal, and ultimately recycling of these plastic  water bottles.

HOW ARE PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES MANUFACTURED?

To create the plastic needed to make these plastic bottles, the initial step involves  extraction of crude oil from the earth. The crude oil is essential in this manufacturing  process as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the main component in producing plastics.

This crude oil is then shipped to a refinery, where it is broken down or refined into its  components; fuel oil, gas, etc. In a factory the gas and oil are chemically bonded with the  resulting molecules creating monomers.

Monomers are then further chemically broken down and bonded into polyethylene  terephthalate, or PET, the polymer that comprises most of these plastic water bottles.

At this point, the final products are tiny pellets. Usually, the pellets are sorted and  grouped according to color to produce similarly colored bottles. The pellets undergo a  process of melting and are later injected into molds to fashion the shape and design of the  plastic bottle.

The factory ships out these finished bottles to respective bottling plants, which fill the  bottles with water, label them, package them, and eventually have them delivered to  stores for consumers.

HOW ARE PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES CONSUMED AND DISPOSED-OF?

The plastic water bottles, fresh from the bottling company, then ships them to the grocery  store, vendors, and other places. These are stations or venues where the water is sold or  given away, being available to the consumer for buying and drinking.

After consumers buy them and the water is drunk, the plastic water bottle is then thrown  in the garbage or in rare cases, recycled. Unfortunately, a vast majority of water bottles go  to the landfill (73-90% of them) where they can take up to 500-1000 years before  decomposing.

As a consumer, you should strive to recycle these plastic water bottles, via recycling  facilities, as opposed to ignorantly throwing them in trash bins.

RECYCLING PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES

Plastic water bottles are becoming an increasing problem in the United States and the  whole world in conjecture. This is because, when plastic water bottles are not recycled  correctly but instead tossed in landfills, the aftermath affects our environment in more  ways than one.  

However, you can take action today by reducing plastic waste and recycle your plastic  water bottles. The act is not as hard as most people tend to believe. It is quick and easy to  do! To help clear this baseless myth about recycling, below are some facts on recycling  that will help create awareness for you and your friends.

RECYCLING FACTS

First, we will start with a few recycling facts:

● only 21% of people in the US engage in recycling

● 75% participation in recycling will have the equivalent of removing 55 million cars off  the road each year.

● Enough plastic bottles are recycled each year to circle the earth 4 times.

● In a lifetime, the average American will throw away roughly 600 times their weight. To  put this into a visual perspective, a 150-pound adult will leave behind 90,000 pounds of  trash.

WHAT HAPPENS TO BOTTLES THAT ARE RECYCLED?

The other 10-23% of plastic water bottles that fortunately make it to a recycling facility  undergo the melting process of pellets all over again to produce other plastic products.  Such as water bottles, shopping bags, and even carpeting items.

The following steps offer a guide to how this recycling process works.

· Initially, everything that is going to be recycled is put on a disk screen for sorting and  separation. The separation of plastic water bottles mainly relies on category and type.

· The sorted plastic bottles are then collected into a large bale and transported to a  different facility. This facility primarily deals with shredding, sorting, washing, and  heating these plastic water bottles to create a resin. The final resin is eventually ground  into pellets to create more material for plastic products.  

Recycling plastic bottles is great from the standpoint of using less crude and oil, which  most of us know is a finite resource. Therefore, while recycling plastic may be a bit  complex, it is still a worthwhile endeavor until we come up with a better solution.

Now, for more fun facts! The statistics below paint a vivid picture of the impact implied  on energy consumption during recycling vs. creating new material.

PLASTICS RECYCLING

Recycling 1 ton of plastics:

● Saves 5,774 kWh of energy

● Saves 16.3 barrels or 685 gallons of oil

● Saves 98 million BTUs of energy

● Saves 30 yards of landfill space

The good news is that there are innovations set in motion to create new single-use products that can break down faster, and use non-toxic components or finite resources.  Take edible water bottles for example! Some manufacturing companies are investing in  these alternative types and other forms of bio plastics, obtained from plant products,  instead of extracting crude and oil.

CONSUME, REUSE, RECYCLE

Quick reminder, not all plastics are the same! You can generally find out what type of  plastic it is by looking at the bottom of the bottle, jug, or container.  

The below examples of plastics are recyclable:

● (PETE) soda pop bottles, cooking oil bottles, and peanut butter jars

● (HDPF) milk, juice, and water bottles, bleach and detergent bottles, margarine tubs,  and some grocery bags

● (PVC) window cleaner bottles, cooking oil bottles, and detergent powder containers

● (LDPE) food packaging, shrink wrap, carryout bags, and heavy-duty bags

● (PP) butter and margarine tubs, yogurt containers screw-on caps and drink straws

● (PS) this material is not Foam cups or packing material. This is a Dow Chemical brand  trademark that includes cutlery and plates, foam coffee cups, egg cartons, meat trays, and  yogurt containers

As with other recycling items, rinse out any liquid and food. For yogurt containers,  peanut butter jars, and margarine and butter tubs, a spatula works well to clean them out  thoroughly

Recycling does make a positive impact on energy consumption. This special feature is  mainly attributed to having less need for new products, therefore, less material sitting in a  landfill.

People are working on creating sustainable, eco-friendly, and single-use products. This  quality will shed light on how to use the plastics that are in the landfills as a renewable  energy source. We do not know how long this will take to become more widespread, but  with everyone's active participation, it will be sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, plastics are the best we have in certain situations, such as emergencies  where we do not have access to a water source to fill up our reusable bottles.

BENEFITS OF RECYCLING PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES.

· There are low amounts of wastes in general.

· The process and activity of recycling are simple, fun, and easy.

· Pollution rates lower due to low energy consumption.

· There are low greenhouse gas emissions in the environment.

· Saves on energy

· Uses fewer resources meaning less need for mining of finite resources such as crude oil. · Saves money as the cost of manufacturing and processing lowers significantly. · Creates jobs for people in the collection, recycling, and processing industries.

· Maintains sustainability of resources such as the crude oil used for plastics  manufacturing.  

We all should care about looking after our environment. Some resources are finite and  some of the materials we dispose of negatively affect the ecosystem. Our disregard for  nature affects our oceans, the animals and fish in them, and ultimately the animals on  land and ourselves. So, not only are we looking after the planet by recycling, but also the  other living creatures and humans we share it with.

We need to do the best we can with what we have, and know, now. We can also vote with  our wallets and support companies that are looking for ways to be environmentally  responsible

If you already recycle, well done, and keep up the good fight!

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