Where do plastic bottles come from?

Characteristics of plastic bottles

EnvironmentThe plastic bottle: from miracle vessel to hated wasteThe plastic bottle’s evolution from something incredible to the scourge of the sea and land has happened in a single generation.By Laura ParkerPublished 28 Aug 2019 15:54 CSTIn 2017, one million drinks were bought in plastic bottles every minute. The plastic bottle’s journey from convenience to curse has been rapid: it has happened in a single generation.Photo by Hannah Whitaker, National GeographicArticle created in collaboration with the National Geographic Society.

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment when the modern plastic bottle changed the world’s beverage drinking habits. The day New York supermodels began wearing Evian water bottles as a fashion accessory on runways in the late 1980s was indicative of the future that lay ahead. Billions of bottles were sold with the promise that bottled water was good for the skin and hair, healthier than soft drinks and safer than tap water. And it didn’t take long for consumers to accept the idea that water needed to be available everywhere.

What plastic bottles are made of

As far as environmental friendliness is concerned, manufacturers and product suppliers are also making more and more efforts to offer the public – the most sustainable solution for their packaging and its recycling. This is why household packaging is labeled, so that the product’s environmental information is legible for both end consumers and downstream agents.

However, many times when we are faced with this type of labeling, we don’t even know where to begin to read it.  Today we explain all those symbols that you find on your everyday packaging, but you have never stopped to think about what they mean. Some are obvious, but others… not so much!

It means that the product is made from materials that can be recycled. Also, if it is circled, it means that recycled materials have been used for that product or packaging.

The correct separation of packaging waste at home is fundamental in the recycling process.  Many companies help citizens to separate packaging waste correctly by means of this symbol, which can be included free of charge and voluntarily on household packaging, and which helps to quickly identify in which container to place the packaging for recycling, in the case of plastic packaging in the yellow container.

Who created plastic bottles

Today, most plastic water and soft drink bottles are made from a polymer called polyethylene terephthalate or PET. This polymer began to be used in the manufacture of bottles in 1976 because of its excellent suitability as a beverage container.

In addition to mineral water and carbonated beverages, PET plastic bottles also serve as packaging for products such as cooking oils, juices, teas, isotonic beverages, wines and spirits, and as packaging for other products such as toys.

By recycling plastic bottles, we save a considerable amount of oil – one ton of oil for every two tons of plastic recycled – and achieve significant energy and economic savings, as well as a clear benefit for the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In this way we also reduce the amount of waste that accumulates in landfills. To give you an idea, one ton of recycled PET plastic is equivalent to saving between 25 and 35 square meters of landfill space, or 3.32 tons of CO2 that would have been emitted had it not been for recycling.

Manufacturing process of plastic bottles pdf

More and more plastic objects are produced, such as plates, cups, bottles or bags. When we dispose of them they can end up in a landfill, be incinerated or recycled. However, due to the action of wind and rain, these wastes can also reach the sea even when we throw them away. They can end up abandoned due to the action of storms, wind or rain, or simply because they have not been disposed of correctly. They can then find their way into rivers or other waterways and even into the sewage system of urban areas. Once there, unless they are extracted beforehand, their final destination will be the sea, no matter how far from the coast.

Today only 9% of all the plastic we have produced and consumed to date worldwide has been recycled, 12% has been incinerated, and the vast majority, 79%, has ended up in landfills or in the environment. Plastic objects can also reach the sea from landfills, due to the water flowing through them. In addition, we also find plastics in the sea from deliberate dumping of garbage, from accidental dumping from ships, or from effluents from sewage treatment plants and wastewater treatment plants. Eighty percent of the waste we find at sea comes from land, while the remaining 20% comes from maritime activity.