You keep hearing about how important it is to reduce your plastic production and consumption, but do you know why ? Discover the cycle life of a plastic bottle
Every minute about 1,000,000 plastic bottles are bought, and 90% of these are not recycled (Forbes, 2017). A lot of it has to do with convenience: it is cheap and disposable…but also dangerous. From the 1950s onwards, plastic production has continuously risen and displaced traditional materials such as glass (UNEP, 2018). Why do we not just use reusable bottles instead of plastic? A question a lot of us have asked ourselves. But, do we even know all the consequences of using a single-use bottle for a day? Of course, one could argue that everyone knows that plastic is bad for our health and environment but why do we still use it? After throwing plastic away, no thought is spent on what happens after. Nor do we think about all the resources that go into creating plastic. Out of sight, out of mind seems the motto. So, what does the life of a plastic bottle look like?
The first step in creating a plastic bottle is the extraction of crude oil and natural gas which happens through large-scale operations. These are shipped to a refinery to refine the oil. Another shipment is needed to get the oil to the plastic factory, where it is chemically modified. The next step is the shipment to the bottling plant, where the bottles are filled with water, soda, etc
From there the filled bottles are brought to the store where costumers buy them and later toss them in the bin or if available into the recycling bin.
Recycling, or not
The bottles get picked up by a waste management company and brought to the landfill (around 80%), where it takes them 500 years to decompose (Source: UNEP, 2018). The rest is brought to recycling centers, where the bottles get turned into carpets, bags etc. However, these also end up on the landfill after a few years. So not only the waste of plastic bottles is a problem and has a great impact on our environment, we also tend to forget about the impact the production has on the environment. During the extraction processes, pollution seems to be the major factor that impacts the environment and our health negatively. Additionally, it is often forgotten, that these processes entail risk. The 2010 oil spill on the Gulf Coast as a result of the extraction of raw material is only one example (MotherEarthLiving, 2012).