The Shocking Reality of Plastic Bottle Recycling: Only 9% Make It to a New Life

Discover the shocking reality that only 9% of plastic bottles ever make it to a new life – and how companies like Air Minum Bersih are taking action to reduce plastic waste.

Written by Rika Andini

Plastic bottles are convenient and ubiquitous in our modern lives. They are cheap to produce, easy to transport, and provide a convenient way to hydrate on the go. However, the convenience of plastic bottles comes at a high cost to our environment. The statistics on plastic bottle waste and pollution are alarming, revealing a world where vast quantities of plastic waste end up in our oceans, landfills, and wildlife habitats.


According to research, 91% of the world’s plastic bottles are not recycled. That means only nine percent of all plastic bottles are recycled, upcycled, or repurposed. The majority of plastic bottles end up in landfills, where they take hundreds of years to break down, releasing harmful chemicals and toxins into the soil and groundwater. Plastic bottles that are not disposed of properly can also end up in natural environments, where they pose a severe threat to wildlife. Plastic pollution in our oceans is expected to surpass the number of fish in the sea by 2050.1[1]


In the United States alone, an estimated 1,500 water bottles are consumed per second, and over 50 billion plastic water bottles are used each year. The energy required to produce 50 billion water bottles is equivalent to the energy required to power 190,000 homes for an entire year. The economic cost of plastic pollution is also significant, with a global estimate of $13 billion per year in damage to marine ecosystems and the tourism industry.2[2]


Plastic bottle waste and pollution also have a significant impact on human health. Plastic polymers and trace chemicals from plastic bottles have been found in food, water, and air samples, leading to potential health risks, including cancer, reproductive problems, and developmental issues. These risks are most significant for communities located near plastic production plants and waste disposal sites.  In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the numbers behind plastic bottle waste and the urgent need for global action.

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Challenges and Steps Involved in Recycling Plastic Bottles

Plastic bottles are manufactured from oil or natural gas, materials that are not renewable or sustainable. The manufacturing process starts when the raw materials are converted into small pellets, which are then heated and molded into the bottle shape. The bottles are then transported to bottling plants where they are filled with beverages or other liquids. Once emptied, the bottles are considered waste and require proper disposal or recycling.


One of the main challenges with recycling plastic bottles is that they come in different types and colors, and each requires a different recycling process. The most common types of plastic bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which can be recycled into a variety of products, including packaging materials, clothing, and carpets. However, some manufacturers use additives and dyes in their bottles, which can reduce the quality of the recycled material and make it more difficult to process.


Another major challenge to recycling plastic bottles is ensuring that they are properly sorted and cleaned before the recycling process. Contamination from food residue or other debris can make it impossible to recycle the bottles, and even small amounts of non-recyclable materials can reduce the quality of the recycled product.


The plastic recycling process involves a series of steps that vary depending on the type of plastic being recycled. In general, the process begins with the collection and transportation of the plastic waste to a recycling center. The plastic bottles are then sorted by type and color, and any contaminants are removed.


Once the bottles are clean and separated, they are shredded into small pieces which are then melted down and reformed into pellets. The pellets are then transported to manufacturers, who use them to produce a wide variety of new products. As an added benefit, the recycling process uses less energy than manufacturing new plastic bottles from scratch, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to a more sustainable environment.


The impact of plastic bottle waste and pollution

The impact of plastic bottle waste on the environment is significant and concerning. Unlike biodegradable materials, plastic bottles do not break down but rather degrade into smaller and smaller pieces that can end up in the food chain. Furthermore, plastic bottles are often not recycled and end up in landfills, where they can take hundreds of years to decompose, leading to further environmental pollution. Additionally, the production of plastic bottles contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, further exacerbating climate change. The social and economic impact of plastic bottle waste is also noteworthy, with significant costs incurred by municipalities, producers, and consumers.


The economic cost of managing plastic waste is considerable, from manufacturing to disposal. Municipalities are burdened with collecting, sorting, and processing waste, leading to significant costs for taxpayers. Similarly, bottled water producers are faced with the high costs associated with producing and distributing plastic bottles. As consumers become more environmentally conscious, companies may also suffer from negative publicity and reputational damage. Consequently, the economic impact of plastic bottle waste is felt by both businesses and consumers.


The social impact of plastic bottle waste is evident in the harm caused to natural habitats and wildlife, as well as human health. The production and disposal of plastic bottles contribute to air, water, and land pollution, harming the environment and wildlife. Plastic bottles can also be mistaken for food by animals, leading to choking, poisoning, and starvation. Furthermore, the toxic chemicals in plastic bottles can leak into the soil and groundwater, causing harm to humans and the environment. Therefore, the social impact of plastic bottle waste is far-reaching, affecting both animals and humans.

Reasons for the low plastic bottle recycling rate

One of the primary reasons behind the low plastic bottle recycling rate is the lack of proper infrastructure and resources. Though many communities offer curbside recycling programs, many more do not have such amenities. In areas without curbside recycling programs, individuals must take their bottles to centralized recycling centers, often an inconvenient and laborious task. Moreover, many recycling centers do not accept plastic bottles due to the lack of receptacles available to separate the different plastics, rendering the effort of collection useless.


Another significant factor that contributes to the low plastic bottle recycling rate is consumer behavior and awareness. When we recycle our plastic bottles, we do not always do so properly, nor do we follow consistent recycling practices. Additionally, many individuals are not aware of the importance of recycling, nor are they aware of the environmental damage caused when plastic bottles are not recycled. Education and community engagement can help raise awareness of the recycling crisis, and proper training can be provided to help individuals consolidate their recycling contribution.


Lack of regulations and policies is another major player that contributes to the low plastic bottle recycling rate. While many states and municipalities regulate the disposal of plastics and impose recycling measures, few have taken an aggressive approach. Additionally, the lack of recycled content requirements in plastic products, such as water bottles, discourages manufacturers from using recycled plastics, perpetuating the cycle of waste. The introduction of recycling requirements in products and stricter recycling regulations and measures can help tighten the gaps and enable a more comprehensive recycling program.


Individual responsibility plays an essential role in ensuring we recycle our plastic bottles. We should all try to recycle as much as possible, especially our plastic bottles. It’s important to identify the materials that need to be recycled, follow proper recycling practices, and effectively deal with the recycling of plastics. We should reuse, reduce and recycle our plastic products, conserve resources, and reduce waste. Simple steps like this can have a considerable impact on the environment and our community.

Efforts to improve plastic bottle recycling rates

The production of single-use plastic bottles has resulted in a startling statistic that shows at least one million plastic bottles are sold every minute worldwide. As per National Geographic, in the United States alone, only 30% of plastic bottles are recycled each year. This statistic highlights the need for extensive efforts to improve the plastic bottle recycling rates.3[1]


One of the most successful ways of increasing the plastic bottle recycling rate is by implementing a bottle deposit program. This program requires consumers to pay a small deposit on top of the product cost when purchasing bottled beverages. When the bottle is returned, consumers can receive a full refund of the deposit. This model has proved to be extremely effective, with states like Michigan increasing their recycling rates from 14.25% to 19.3%. It not only encourages people to recycle but also provides an incentive for waste management systems to collect and process used bottles.4[2]


Another approach to achieving better recycling rates is by improving recycling infrastructure. This solution involves investing in collection systems, sorting facilities, and transportation networks that are designed to efficiently collect and process plastic bottles. If such systems are in place, they will enhance the collection rates, improve the quality of recyclable materials, and reduce the contamination of other recyclables. In addition, the availability of efficient recycling infrastructure helps increase public awareness and education about recycling, leading to an increased rate of recycling.


Innovation in recycling technology is another significant initiative to improve plastic bottle recycling rates. Researchers and organizations are continuously seeking innovations in the areas of sorting, reprocessing, and reformulation. New technologies such as chemical recycling, which turns plastic waste back into its original building blocks, and mechanical recycling technologies, which convert plastic waste into pellets that can be used to produce new products, are gaining popularity. Innovations in recycling technology aim to create a closed-loop recycling system, one that is able to recycle plastic bottles that were once considered non-recyclable.

Consumer actions to reduce plastic bottle waste

Recycling plastic bottles is a crucial step in reducing plastic waste and protecting the environment. Proper disposal of plastic bottles is equally important. By placing plastic bottles in designated recycling bins, consumers can ensure that the recycling process is efficient and effective. The recycled plastic can then be used to make a wide range of products, from clothing and furniture to building materials and automotive parts, reducing the need for virgin plastic production.


However, improper disposal of plastic bottles can have severe consequences. Discarded plastic bottles take hundreds of years to decompose, polluting the environment and endangering wildlife. Improper disposal, such as throwing plastic bottles in the trash or littering, can clog drainage systems and waterways, causing flooding and other environmental problems. Thus, it is essential to properly dispose of plastic bottles in designated recycling bins or other waste management systems.


Another effective way to reduce plastic bottle waste is to switch to reusable drinking water containers. Consumers can invest in high-quality glass or stainless steel water bottles that can last for many years, rather than buying single-use plastic bottles. This simple step can help consumers reduce their carbon footprint, cut down on plastic waste, and save money in the long run.


At the Bebandem Karangasem Health Center, the production and disposal of plastic bottles has been running rampant for years. With an alarming 28,000 bottles being used annually and contributing to the global pollution crisis, it’s safe to say that something needs to change.5[1] Air Minum Bersih and Carocell solar water are stepping up and taking action to reduce plastic waste. Through the implementation of clean drinking water purification, the Bebandem Health Center will no longer need to rely on plastic bottles as their primary source of hydration. It’s a step in the right direction for a healthier, greener future.


Consumers can also play an active role in reducing plastic bottle waste by choosing eco-friendly products. This involves opting for brands that use fewer plastics, promoting sustainable practices, or offering packaging alternatives. For instance, consumers can look for detergents that come in refillable containers or choose beauty products that use recycled plastic. These actions can go a long way in shifting the demand towards more sustainable and eco-friendly products, ultimately reducing the amount of plastic waste in the environment.


In short, with the production of billions of plastic bottles a day and only 9% of that making it to recycling, it’s clear that more needs to be done in order to decrease plastic waste. Companies such as Air Minum Bersih and Carocell solar water have already taken meaningful steps towards reducing plastic use and creating sustainable systems for managing clean drinking water. We can all help reduce plastic waste in our own small ways by avoiding single-use plastics, reusing containers where possible, carrying reusable water bottles with us, and supporting companies with environmentally friendly practices.


However, these actions are barely enough to address the global scale of the issue. That’s why we need everyone to join together and contribute to organizations like Air Minum Bersih — it is only through collaboration on a massive scale that real progress can happen. Let’s make a joint donation today and take another step towards saving our planet!


Tirta Murni Nusantara

Jalan Penestanan, Sayan,

Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, 80571

+ 62 821 4645 0217


AHU-0020799.AH.01.04 Tahun 2022

Berita Negara No 080 Tahun 2022

Akta Notaris
no 09, 30 September 2022

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