Is Recycling Plastic Bottles A Bad Idea

Ok, here are the numbers, take this little quiz!

  1. What is the average amount of plastic bottles that are recycled every year? Hint: between 1% and 100%!
  2. What percentage of the cost of bottled water is in the packaging?
  3. How many barrels of oil are required to produce all the plastic water bottles used in the US for one year?
  4. Out of every 10 water bottles, how many end up in a landfill?
Recycling Plastic Bottles
Water bottles

Recycling is doing well and doing poorly–it depends a lot on where you live. Some states excel while others are just plain trashy. Really, recycling begins at home. Schools and businesses are prime places to promote recycling.

Answers to the quiz questions about recycling plastic bottles

  1. In 2006, Americans recycled an average of 23%. That means that 38 billion water bottles end up in landfills. In 2014, according to the EPA, it has increased to 34%.
  2. Bottled water costs between $1 and $4 per gallon. 90% of the cost is in the packaging!
  3. In order to manufacture a one year’s supply of bottled water in the US, it takes 1.5 million barrels of oil a year! You could drive 100,00 cars with that much oil.
  4. Eight out of ten plastic water bottles end up in the dump.

Pretty shocking, isn’t it? These statistics can be found at the following sites:


Mold making and Lean Mfg.
Biodegradable plastic

What is going on with recycling plastic bottles?

If the bottles are easily recycled and there are facilities all over the country, why are the numbers so dismal? There are several reasons, according to numerous studies. One major factor is that bottled water is usually consumed away from home, so it is just not so convenient to find a recycling bin.

Recently, I was in Croatia visiting my brother. One thing I noticed was the recycling containers everywhere, from the airport to along sidewalks. It is just a part of their mentality, apparently. Good idea!

Another reason is the American recycling industry actually faces a shortage of of plastics because so much is exported to China! Many companies are facing possible bankruptcy as a consequence. So ironic!

Unlike soda bottles, water bottles, for the most part, do not have a deposit. One state that does is Michigan, and they have a 95% return rate on the bottles.

What can be done about recycling plastic bottles?

Make a nationwide bottle deposit law that would create an incentive to recycle. Taxpayers have to pay for the clean up, now the costs should be shifted to the consumers.

Eliminate the patchwork bottle laws that vary from state to state and make it nationwide.

Find a way to get the manufacturers to stop opposing legislation in Congress. There has been widespread bipartisan support, but the beverage lobby groups have tremendous political influence. So, what’s new? Still, with enough pressure things could change.

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