Where the Bottles Wind Up

If you google “bottled water” and “waste” there are is a wide variety of information and sources to tell you just how destructive bottled water is. From organizations formed with the sole purpose of putting an end to bottled water to newspapers who are merely exploiting the scandal of the anti-plastic bottle movement and everything in between can be found by typing in those three words.

Despite all of the scare tactics and dramatization used by these sites to catch the eye, there are actually facts behind most (if not all) of what they’re saying. The first site I opened was www.banthebottle.net mostly because I had heard the slogan before and wanted to see a bit of the ridiculous hype they were creating on their site. I am by no means pro-bottled water, nor am I anti-bottled water. However, I am slightly biased due to my favoring of a greener water consumption solution. All of this being said, I think some of the sentimentalist tactics being used by organizations created for the cessation of bottled water seem absolutely ridiculous. Upon further inspection, all of their claims are backed up by fact. I took a look through their initial facts sheet and all of the facts found there are backed up by reputable sources. Facts like, “Last year, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38,” and, “Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means 38 billion water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – are wasted each year” are backed up by an article written by Charles Fishman, a man well versed in writing about waste in America (“Bottled Water Facts”). Fishman’s publishing history includes books like The Big Thirst and The Wal-Mart Effect.

According to a National Geographic article titled “Why Tap Water is Better Than Bottled Water” it is stated that more than 80% of water bottles wind up on landfills. PET used to be the only type of recyclable plastic, which made bottled water an incredible threat to those in favor of keeping Mother Earth as green as possible. However, there are recycling programs in place today that make recycling all types of plastics not only possible, but viable (Howard).

The big concern when it comes to bottled water is that the percentage of those recycling is only about 20%. This is where the biggest geographical impact of bottled water comes from. Using the statistics gathered, and the average bottled water size (16.9oz), we can deduce that every American uses 233 disposable water bottles a year. Take into account the average that are recycled and we learn that about 186 of those bottles (per American) winds up in a landfill. The current US population is 318.9 million people (“Your Geography Selections”). That adds up to a yearly 59.3 billion plastic bottles in landfills across America. The number would no doubt be higher if the entire world were included in these calculations. The production (and irresponsible disposal) of that many water bottles has an enormous effect on the physical geography of the world. Not only do the bottles last multiple lifetime, but the space they take up disrupts the greater ecosystem of the areas where landfills are established. Also, the emissions from producing bottles in that quantity are playing havoc on the overall global temperature.


“Bottled Water Facts.” Ban the Bottle RSS. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
Howard, Brian C. “What Plastic Recycling Codes Mean.” Good Housekeeping. Hearst Communications Inc., 25 Nov. 2008. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
Karlstrom, Solvie and Christine Dell’Amore. “Why Tap Water Is Better Than Bottled Water.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 13 Mar. 2010. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
“Your Geography Selections.” American FactFinder. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

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