The past, present and future of the plastic bottle

The Plastic Bottle Today

Present: A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. The demand, equivalent to about 20,000 bottles being bought every second, is driven by an apparently insatiable desire for bottled water and the spread of a western, urbanised “on the go” culture to China and the Asia Pacific region. Most plastic bottles used for soft drinks and water are made from polyethylene terephthalate (Pet), which is highly recyclable. But as their use soars across the globe, efforts to collect and recycle the bottles to keep them from polluting the oceans, are failing to keep up. Fewer than half of the bottles bought are collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected are turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Why Plastic?

Plastic was invented in the 19th century and was originally used to replace common materials such as ivory, rubber, and shellac. Plastic bottles were first used commercially in 1947 but remained relatively expensive until the early 1950s when high density polyethylene was introduced. They quickly became popular with both manufacturers and customers because of their lightweight nature, relatively low production, and transportation costs compared to glass bottles. However, the biggest advantage plastic bottles have over their glass counterparts is their superior resistance to breakage, in both production and transportation. Except for alcoholic beverages, the food industry has almost completely replaced glass bottles with plastic bottles.

What Happened To The Glass Bottle?

The rise of the glass bottle began with the rise in popularity of soda water. In the late 1880’s it seemed that almost every drug store had a special soda water to sell to the local public, but none caught on quite as well as Coca-Cola. It may have been one of the first times a bottle was designed to become a major selling factor for a product.  

The popularity of bottled water declined in the early 20th century, when the advent of water chlorination reduced public concerns about water-borne diseases in municipal water supplies. Still it spread to cafés and grocery stores in the second half of the century. Today, bottled water is the most popular commercial beverage, with about one and half the domestic consumption of other soft drinks. 

In 1973DuPont engineer Nathaniel Wyeth patented Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, the first plastic bottle to withstand the pressure of carbonated liquids. Today, PET plastic has replaced glass as the preferred material for single-serving bottled water containers due to its light weight and resistance to breaking.

Single Use

The single use of bottled water made out of glass or plastic has a huge impact on the environment:

Its production process, bottling and transport has a very high ecological footprint and as for the plastic bottle produces a colossal amount of waste.

In addition the most popular version of bottled water is not as healthy as we may think:

A lot of studies demonstrate that in many cases, plastic bottled water has the same or sometimes even worse quality than tap water. Besides, scientific investigations demonstrate that the plastic of those bottles, PET in most cases, release toxic substances, such as phthalate, antimony, formaldehyde or acetaldehyde, in the water. This means that even high-quality bottled water is very likely to contain plastic additives.

Bottled water is against the concept of: “water as a public good”. There are areas where the quality of tap water is not optimal. But Access to good drinking water should not be through plastic bottles. Existing solutions are available to help democratising and decentralising water consumption waste free. If you want to know more about one of the options check out the Osmosys Water Service here.

The Future Of Drinking Water

We may not have to travel long distances to obtain our water from fresh springs, but the idea of portable hydration is more important now than ever in this busy world. Whether they’re made from flexible plastic, durable aluminum, or sleek stainless steel, reusable water bottles are a stylish way to stay cool and hydrated. 

As single-use plastic bottles have increasingly been pilloried as an ecological scourge, more people are seizing on reusable jugs as the eco-friendly alternative, like this one for example. 

Now having a reusable bottle is only half of the equation, to hydrate sustainably and lower the environmental impact of your water consumption requires the availability of high quality drinking water to refill your bottle. Water consumption starts at home so make sure you have a reliable and waste free water source available. One option for high quality mineral water from you kitchen tap is the Osmosys Water Service. Check here for more information. 


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