June 05, 2020

The Lifespan of a Disposable Plastic Bottle

Did you know that the disposable plastic bottle you purchased the other day will actually outlive you? That’s right, plastic bottles can take anywhere from 450 to 1000 years to decompose. Let that sink in for a moment. That plastic bottle will outlive your great grandchildren. Alternatively, if that bottle was made with Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) it will never fully biodegrade.  

What If I Recycle?  

The truth is that even if you think you are recycling that plastic bottle, you may not be. According to an article by Green Queen that talks about some of the myths of recycling in Hong Kong, they explain, “the reality is that most plastics are not recyclable in Hong Kong…unless these types of plastics are properly sorted (no plant plastics) and cleaned (no food stains, labels off, non plastic lids removed), and brought to the right recycling plant, they end up in the landfill.” 

Research has shown that only 10% of plastic bottles are recycled, and even then they are downcycled— meaning they are used to make something of inferior value and, most of the time, that plastic cannot be recycled a second time.

What Happens to The 90% of Plastic Bottles That Are Not Recycled?

Some of them will end up in a landfill, mixed with other rubbish, and broken down by rain, creating a toxic fluid called leachate, which can then contaminate groundwater.

Other bottles will end up in the ocean. They will break down into microplastics and be consumed by birds and marine wildlife. There are detrimental outcomes from this as well. The plastic will kill the wildlife that consume it or will end up in our own food chain, as we consume the wildlife.

What Can I Do?

One million plastic bottles per minute are sold worldwide. The best and only real solution here is to stop purchasing plastic bottles. It’s so easy to protect the environment, the future, and your own health, by investing in a reusable water bottle or a water filter, if you are concerned about the quality or taste of the water you consume. The next time you are tempted to purchase a disposable water bottle, remember that a moment of convenience could turn into a thousand years of harm to our beautiful planet.