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Recycling Bottles and The 21st Century Waterfall

April 2nd, 2009 · 4 Comments

This article explains what we should do for recycling bottles, various myths that we need to disbelieve.

Plastic Water Bottle

Recycling bottles is making great strides here in the US. In 2006, about 2.2 billion pounds of PET plastic bottles were recycled and 928 million pounds of HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) containers made it to recyclers. Impressive?


But, before we pat ourselves in the back, let’s put recycling bottles in the US in its proper perspective. while the numbers above are high, they represent a mere 23% of our total bottled water consumption.  In short, 44 billion bottles still ended up in our landfills.

Read more Recycling Facts here.

Watch Recycling Bottles Video

This video is called “Twenty First Century Waterfall.” It’s short but it’s cleverly effective in delivering the message – we need to do more. The disparity between what we do recycle and what gets thrown away is simply too enormous.

Myths We Need To Disbelieve

Admittedly, there are some parts of the country where it might not be safe to drink tap water because of contamination issues (from all the stuff we dump to our landfills, perhaps?). And then, there’s just those people who can’t stand the smell or taste of chlorinated water. In general, however, tap water is the same or even better than bottled water, in terms of safety and potability.

So why is bottled water one of the most popular beverages in America today? I guess we all bought into the marketing message (myth, honestly) peddled by the bottling industry – bottled water is cheap, it’s convenient to carry, it’s better than tap water. I don’t have anything against marketing but we simply need to look at these claims closely.

Bottled water is cheap. Yeah, right. If you consider something priced 1000x cheap. And here’s the rub. 95% of the bloated price for that bottled water goes to the price of the plastic bottle, advertising and distribution. And for what? For the same filtered tap water sourced from somewhere else.

I rant but life goes on, and at the end of the day, Americans will still be buying billions and billions of this stuff this year. Recycling bottles is a great option, in this case. The problem, as many environmentalists observed, is not in our homes, where recycling rate is relatively high. It’s in the parks and recreation facilities we go to (and leave those bottles in). A vast majority of these facilities simply aren’t recycling-oriented and the bottles collected inevitably end up in the landfills.

Recycling bottles – why do it?

Oil Conservation:

Oil, of course, is a finite resource, and as we all saw last year, it’s unwise to be so dependent on this fossil fuel. Well, plastic is made from petroleum; in fact around 2 million barrels of oil were used to produce plastic bottles we used last year. How big is this number, you might ask. 2 million barrels is enough to fuel 150,000 cars for an entire year! Recycling bottles can help reduce our dependence on oil significantly.

Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In the light of the resounding participation of millions around the world in Earth Hour 2009, perhaps the greatest impact of recycling bottles is in helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The entire process of extracting petroleum, to refining it, to producing water bottles from petroleum, to distributing these bottles contributes massively to vast greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling bottles, like turning off your lights during Earth Hour, is an unequivocal vote for the environment.

Recycling bottles clear up the litter

There is so much plastic bottles lying around, our cities are inundated by this ugly stuff. Recycling would significantly reduce this litter. You want to know where all those plastic bottles littering our streets end up? Visit the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

It just makes sense.

Why throw away billions and billions of this item that would take a thousand years before decomposing, when we can make a lot of brand new products out of these? I’m not just talking about producing new PET bottles out of old ones. Think about stronger-than-wood backyard decks, lawn furniture, trash bins, safety cones, etc. They’re even starting to build highways mixing plastic recyclables with aggregates.

Recycling bottles do matter. Next time you think about throwing away that empty water bottle on your way out of the park this weekend, think again. It might just end as part of a brand new slide in a kids playground somewhere, if you recycle it instead.


  • Image of plastic water bottle from Wikipedia and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5, Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 and Attribution ShareAlike 1.0.

Tags: Plastic Recycling

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Abby // Apr 21, 2009 at 6:27 am

    Exactly the information I was looking for! I’m writing an article for our own blog on why we should be using reusable water bottles. Great info. I’ll provide a link to this article for sure!

    Our blog can be found here: http://www.absorbentprinting.com/blog/

  • 2 Absorbent, Ink.-Promotional Products and Marketing Blog » Reusable Water Bottles Are Green! // Apr 21, 2009 at 6:51 am

    […] on the need to move away from disposable plastic water bottles, I ran across this article from Pace Butler. Though this article is recommending that we all do a better job of recycling, which I’m all […]

  • 3 Abby // Apr 22, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Hey Pace Butler. You guys rock. Keep up the great work. And thanks for providing a link to our blog article!

  • 4 Chuck // May 4, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Great article. It always amazes me that something that seems like no big deal, when multiplied becomes a huge deal with far reaching consequences. Thanks for the common sense update.