When we drink from cans, some of us actually think to recycle the can instead of tossing it in the trash. On the other hand, many plastic water bottles get trashed without a second thought. Until recently I didn’t think about recycling
water bottles until a relative asked me if I would save my empties for her to recycle. I’ve noticed the blue recycle bins in the alleys next to the trash cans but I would mostly see them filled with old newspapers and not plastic bottles. Since many of us are “going green” and being more active in our recycling and environmental efforts, recycling efforts are starting to increase.
Many people buy bottled water, so many in fact that over 28 billion bottles of water are consumed each year in the U.S. alone. According to the Container Recycling Institute, more than eighty percent of those 28 billion containers end up in the trash rather than being recycled. Perhaps more people would think about recycling water bottles if they knew some of the things they could be recycled into.
If you pick up a plastic water bottle and look on the bottom, you’ll see the triangular shaped recycling logo with a “1” in the center. Bottles with this “1” in the center of the recycling logo can be recycled into many new products such as t-shirts, shoes, carpet, sweaters, jackets, upholstery for luggage, car parts, bakery trays, industrial strapping, sleeping bags, and of course, water bottles. They can also save yards of landfill space. Water bottles currently make up about two percent of landfill waste. Some environmentalists believe it can take plastic bottles up to 1,000 years to decompose. Although there is no definite timeframe, it does take a long time for plastic bottles to decompose. If they are sitting in landfills sealed and compacted with all of the other trash and bottles with no air moving, they won’t decompose at all.
The plastic bottles with the “1” etched on the bottom of the bottles are PET plastic (polyethylene terephthalate). According to the Department of Streets and Sanitation, these bottles are petroleum based products which make it cheaper to make products out of them instead of using virgin resources. After aluminum, PET is the most valuable recyclable material selling at about $400 per ton.
The U.S comes in second in per capita consumption of gallons of water at 27.6 gallons consumed. According to the Container Recycling Institute, that averages out to roughly 166 bottles per person in the U.S per year. And to think, we trash more than 80 percent of the water bottles we use which leaves less than 20 percent to be recycled into other goods. Thinking of some of the things water bottles can be recycled into, it’s possible that you are wearing a shirt or a pair of shoes made from a recycled bottle, or perhaps the bumper on your car is made from recycled bottles. PET bottles are in high demand since they can be used to make new products. So the next time you get ready to trash an empty water bottle, consider recycling it instead. You might just end up wearing it.
Container Recycling Institute
Department of Streets and Sanitation
Red Eye Chicago