The 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).
It is important to see not only their life after use, but also all the transportation, chemical alterations as well as extraction processes of the raw material that go into creating the plastic bottle that have to be considered. Negative health impacts of using huge amounts of plastic show in the rapid rise of the size of plastic islands in the oceans. Dissolving into microplastic, it finds its’ way into animals which later end up on our plates as food. The impact of plastic on our environment is not bound to time(as it takes a long time to decompose) nor place (globalisation of our value chain). This is why it is important to work together to solve this problem!
Although recycling is a great step towards helping to keep our environment cleaner and healthier, it does not erase the damage done by the production. That’s why it is important to try to reduce your overall use of plastic to tackle the problem of waste and the environmental impact of plastic bottles. By doing so, you not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also help to improve the health of the people and the planet.
In order to reduce our plastic waste, we need alternatives to common bottles. One of them is:
Refill not landfill
This campaign aims to reduce the use of plastic bottles by offering reusable aluminium bottles. These can handle hot and cold beverages and help to keep the environment healthy. In the cities of Phnom Phen, Siem Reap, Shianoukville, Kampot and Kep, and Battambang you can find cafes and restaurants for free refill stations. More information at: https://refillcambodia.com
And if you’re already at it, try to ditch plastic wherever you can. Use environmental-friendly alternatives to plastic straws, plastic bags, and try to avoid shop were every single thing is packaged individually. Bring your own containers for takeaway and enjoy your meal without any plastics.
And most importantly, support local businesses in their decision to reduce their plastic use. You can find them in our Green Directory.
Together we can make a difference!
MotherEarthLiving, 2012: https://www.motherearthliving.com/health-and-wellness/harmful-effects-of-plastic-ze0z1205zsch