The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Plastic Water Bottles

Posted on August 9, 2011

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(Source: The Coca-Cola Company)

It’s time for U.S. consumers to “think outside the bottle.” No more than 25% of plastic bottles are being recycled, yet 95,000 are being used per minute. Here are the good, the bad and the ugly developments that are either promising for the environment or pitfalls for consumers. The good news is that massive efforts are being made by Fortune 500 innovators to be greener:

–          PepsiCo announced a “green” bottle made from bio-based raw materials that is 100% recyclable and will be in pilot production in 2012.

–          Coca-Cola subsidiary Odwalla has transitioned all of its bottles to 100% plant-based bottles.

–          Heinz will be making their plant-based ketchup bottles by licensing the 100% plant-based material that Coca-Cola is using.

(Source: PepsiCo, Inc.)

Yet there are at least two facets of bad news for the plastic water bottles:

1)      Recycled plastic bottles are not necessarily recycled by consumers: about 75% are still disposed into landfills or other locations; and

2)      If plastic bottles are recycled, they are not biodegradable. Any type of plastic bottle is harmful to the environment.

Here’s the ugly part:  Americans are buying more bottled water each year because of convenience; they’d rather not carry a reusable water bottle, search for a water fountain or ask for a free cup of tap water. Here’s a brief comparison:

  • Tap water costs $0.30 per gallon
  • Bottled water bought in grocery store cases costs $1.28/gallon (over 4X tap water cost)
  • Bottled water from a vending machine = $8/gallon (27X tap water cost and more than gasoline costs).

Yet if every U.S. consumer recycled plastic water bottles, it would either:

  • Save enough energy for 3 hours of lighting per night for two 60-Watt bulbs in each and every U.S. household OR
  • Provide enough material to make 6 T-shirts per person per year from the fiber derived from the plastics used in the water bottles.

And Planet Earth would be cleaner and greener.

Plastic bags have been banned in some cities. Don’t be surprised if cities start banning plastic water bottles or start taxing each bottle.

Will you be an EcoLeader and recycle 100% of your plastic water bottles or carry a reusable water bottle? Your comments are welcome.

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© 2011 by Ed Valdez. All rights reserved.

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Posted in: Eco Leader