In an article published on June 28, 2017 in The Guardian, Sandra Laville and Matthew Taylor drew attention to the fact that “a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute,” which is equivalent to about 20,000 bottles per second. These numbers are projected to increase by another 20% by 2021, reaching half a trillion in global sales per year. This may create an “environmental crisis” predicted by some experts to be “as serious as climate change,” said the authors.
Most of these plastic bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a highly recyclable material. However, the collecting and recycling rates do not keep up with the soaring production. “Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles,” the authors summarized. Instead, most bottles end up either in a landfill or polluting the ocean.
A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation concluded that if the current situation does not change, by 2050 there will be more plastics than fish (by weight) in the ocean (FPF reported). Plastics in the ocean accumulate even in the remote areas, including the Arctic (FPF reported). Multiple studies showed that plastics spread in the environment are not only strenuous to wildlife (FPF reported), but may also appear in human diet due to accumulation in the food chain (FPF reported).
According to the authors, higher use of recycled PET (up to 100%) in making new bottles would have eased the current crisis. However, the producers are often “hostile” to using the recycled PET, largely due to “cosmetic reasons because they want their products in shiny, clear plastic.” The industry is also resisting the introduction of taxes or charges that could reduce demand for single-use plastic bottles.
“[T]he soft drinks industry needs to reduce its plastic footprint,” said Louisa Casson, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace. During a recent expedition to remote Scottish coastlines, Greenpeace “found plastic bottles nearly everywhere.”
Laville, S., and Taylor, M. (June 28, 2017). “A million bottles a minute: world’s plastic binge ‘as dangeours as climate change.’” The Guardian
Lorraine Chow (June 29, 2017). “1 Million plastic bottles bought every minute, that’s nearly 20,000 every second.” EcoWatch
Taylor Avery (July 3, 2017). “How our fossil fuel addiction is ruining our oceans.” Food & Water Watch