The Plastic Bottle Horror


Over the holiday I took time to watch a couple of horror flicks. One of them had an ending which left me with a sheer sense of dread. Probably because I bought into the premise of the movie even though it most likely will never happen.

The thing is, I now have a very similar sense of dread from reading about something that is actually happening.

A recent report from The Guardian says that the global annual consumption of plastic bottles will reach half a trillion by the year 2021. In essence, that amount would far exceed the efforts to recycle.

According to the website, more than 480 billion drinking plastic bottles were sold around the world in 2016. By 2021, that number will be more than 583 billion.

“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 in 2016 were collected for recycling, and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.”

The visuals of plastic bottles in a landfill are pretty easy to find. To be able to see the impact they have on the oceans is more difficult, but not impossible.

Here is Dr. Erik van Sebille from the Climate Change Research Center & ARC Center of Excellence for Climate Systems Science, UNSW describing his abstract for an environmental research letter which was published in IOPscience a few years ago and remains relevant:

The title of the environmental research letter is, “Origin, dynamics and evolution of ocean garbage patches from observed surface drifters.”

Compared to horror movies, it could use a better title, but to me, this is scary stuff. MSW_bug_web

  • Patrick J Ronayne.

    Put a bounty on them paid by the producer and users and the customers will return them. Make them worth something!!! Same with styrofoam containers… You would clean up all around the world…

  • Keith Hinckley.

    This is a classic example of an article with little to no backing of the underlying thesis. How do you think so many plastic bottles will end up in the oceans especially when so little of the world population does not live near an ocean? Many will end up in a landfill where they exist and many will just be thrown onto the ground. There are places in the world where there are no landfills. Then again, instead of the gloom and doom of plastic bottles piling up around the world, why don’t you advocate for some type of collection system that will prevent the disaster you predict. Why are efforts to recycle them falling short? Why are the numbers of plastic bottle sales increasing at such a rate? What is the predicted number of sales based on, and more importantly, where are the numbers increasing so sharply? World population is not growing at such a rate, so sales are growing somewhere that can be identified as a region to increase efforts to recycle. Left unanswered, this number of plastic bottles could be an overwhelming project to address. However, identifying the problem and where it needs to be addressed are the first steps in developing a process to eliminate it from becoming an environmental nightmare!

  • Rick Laughlin, APLD, QWEL, UNLA, GWA.

    Absolutely sickening…people you and I both know are NOT recycling…but they can…we need to step up and make every one aware of what we are doing to the earth and our selves!!!

  • Rosemary Sutherland.

    I agree with Patrick. I used to turn the opened bottles upside and fill them with water to irrigate my plants during droughts – the bottles would disappear in no time as some child figured they could make 5c from the bottle. I just think retailers need to stop seeing each bottle as a $4 over priced bonanza for people who are out and about without a drink bottle and provide water stations as we had 50 years ago – especially in schools. I realize those old drinking fountains were rather grose but I am sure our scientific minds could find something more user friendly.


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