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Use-and-Toss Plastic Bottle FactsShare

Use-and-Toss Plastic Bottle Facts

Fast Facts on Disposable Bottles

  • 2,480,000 tons of plastic bottles and jars were thrown away in one year (2008).
  • Tap water is cleaner, cheaper and healthier than store-bought water.
  • 60 billion single-use drink containers were purchased in 2006, and 3 out of 4 were thrown out directly after use.
  • Plastic bottles are among the most prevalent source of pollution found on our beaches.
  • Plastic trash absorbs pre-existing organic pollutants like BPA and PCBs.

The Problem

  • An estimated 2,480,000 tons of plastic bottles and jars were disposed of in 2008. (EPA)
  • Store-bought bottled water is a rip off. Tap water is often subject to more stringent regulation and testing than bottled water. It costs a fraction of the cost from the tap. It is cleaner, cheaper, and thus healthier. (Natural Resources Defense Council)
  • As of 2006, an estimated 60 billion PET single-use beverage containers were bought. Approximately 45 billion of these were discarded after use. (Container Recycling Institute)
  • Another estimation put bottled water spending at a collective $100 billion in the US for 2006. (OneWorld.net)
  • Every square mile of the ocean has 46,000 pieces of floating plastic in it. (UN, 2006)
  • Ten percent of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean. 70% of which finds its way to the ocean floor, where it will likely never degrade. (UN, 2006)


The Impact

  • Along with plastic bags, plastic bottles are among the most prevalent sources of pollution found on our beaches. (Ocean Conservency)
  • The extremely slow decomposition rate of plastic bottles leaves them to drift on the ocean for untold years.
  • When plastics break down, they don't biodegrade, they photodegrade. This means the materials break down to smaller fragments. These readily absorb toxins which contaminate soil, waterways, and animals upon digestion.
  • Refuse plastic absorbs pre-existing organic pollutants, including Bisphenol A (BPA) and polychlorinated biphenyls(PCBs).
  • On PCBs: "Animals that ate food containing large amounts of PCBs over short periods of time had mild liver damage and some died. Animals that ate smaller amounts of PCBs in food over several weeks or months developed various kinds of health effects, including anemia; acne-like skin conditions; and liver, stomach, and thyroid gland injuries." (The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry)
  • One study involving the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction and a National Toxicology Program (NTP) Expert Panel has reported on effects of BPA on development. They found cause for "some concern" related to behavioral, neural, and prostate function effects on mammals. On the NTP's concern scale, "some concern" rates 3 out of 5.


The Solution

  • Hope is not lost; 2008 marked the first year since their introduction that fewer PET bottles and jars were discarded than the previous year (from 2,140,000 tons in 2007 to 1,950,000 tons in 2008). The same can be said for HDPE bottles (590,000 tons in '07 to 530,000 tons in '08).
  • The solution is to embrace a cultural shift away from use-and-toss mentality: Each high-quality reusable, BPA-free bottle can eliminate hundreds (if not thousands) of disposable bottles.
  • New technologies have been developed in Singapore that will allow manufacturers to use organic chemicals called ionic liquids to pull C02 from the atmosphere (in much the same way plants do) and use these gasses to make non-toxic, BPA-free bottles that are 40% C02 by weight. Not only would such bottles be healthy for consumers, they would in fact remove harmful emissions from the environment.
  • New research published in Biomacromolecules has found that by treating BPA-containing plastics with ultraviolet light and heat, we may in the near future be able to dispose of the persistent pollutant much more safely and reliably. After treating BPA-containing plastics with light and heat, they are exposed to a fungus (which is already used for environmental cleanup) and burie. In one year's time the fungi had completely consumed the plastic and left no trace of BPA. While it is not yet in wide use, this treatment and other related research marks the start of a new, greener future.

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