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Plastic Bottles and Down Cycling
Plastics have become a big part of our lives today. We use plastic in just about everything from computers and entertainment, to containers and cars. We have become very plastic dependent in the last 60 years or so. Plastics are less breakable than glass, last longer, cheaper to make, and so much more. One of the first plastic products that come to mind is the plastic water bottle. Every grocery store and gas station across our nation has on its shelves, multiple water bottle options. They are cold, refreshing,-- and quite snazzy in design. They have great depicitons of waterfalls and untouched landscapes, clever brand names, and the convience of not haveing to do much to obtain. It all sounds great untill you start thinking in a more holistic way. Ever think about where the bottles go when you throw them away or recycle them? How about what goes into making water bottles- the energy and resources?
Where does plastic come from?
Plastic Bottles Come From Virgin Sources.
- PET = Polyethylene Terephtalate: Petroleum & Natural Gas
- Oil Extraction: Middle East, Nigeria - Environmental & Social Issues
- Shipped to Refineries: mix HC’s from crude oil w/ chemical catalysts triggering polymerization - forms plastic pellets
1.5 million barrels of oil are used to produce plastic watter bottles in the US per year. That much energy could power 250,000 homes or fuel 100,000 cars for a year (USA Today)
Plastics are sold on open market as Commodities (subject to Supply & Demand)
- 1.Brokers buy virgin plastic pellets and sell to manufacturers
- 2.Manufacturers (i.e. China) melt pellets into “pre-forms” (small test tubes) by heating ~270’C and mixing them to form homogenous paste, than reheat ~100’C w/ infrared lamps to regain plasticity. Bottling Companies purchase “Pre-forms”
- 3.Bottling Companies (i.e. Coca-Cola) stretch and blow mold the “pre-forms” under high pressure to create the bottles’ final shape. Bottles must be sterilized for FDA regulations and than they are filled, capped, labeled, packed into cases, and prepared for shipping to consumer.
- 4.Producing 1 kilogram of PET plastic requires 17.5 kilograms of water and results in air emissions of 40 grams of hydrocarbons, 25 grams of sulfur oxides, 18 grams of carbon monoxide, 20 grams of nitrogen oxides, and 2.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide.
- 5.Much more water is consumed in making the bottles than will ever go into them. (The Green Guide)
Where does my water bottle go when I'm "done" with it?
Americans used 50 billion water bottles in 2006 and sent 38 billion water bottles to landfills, the equivalent of 912 million gallons of oil.http://www.filterforgood.com/learn_the_facts.php#