Consumption is going to rise to 1 trillion bottles per year by 2021. This increase is much faster than we are recycling. Some campaigners say this is as serious as climate change.
This use is about 20,000 bottles every single second of every single day. Demand for bottled water in China and the Asia Pacific region is behind this increase. Many people in this area want to copy the ‘throw away’ Western culture.
In 2016, people used 480 billion plastic drinking bottles. Unbelievably, this number of bottles placed in a line would reach half way to the Sun. Researchers at Euromonitor International believe this number will increase to 583.4 billion bottles by 2021.
Bottle producers use the recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (Pet) to produce bottles. Unfortunately, recycling efforts cannot match demand. Only 7% of these bottles were recycled in 2016. The rest go to landfill or the oceans. Between 5-13 million tonnes of plastic leaks into the oceans every year. Birds, fish and other sea life then eat this plastic. Researchers at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation say the oceans will have more plastic than fish by 2050.
Experts also warn that this plastic is being eaten by humans as they eat fish. Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently said people who eat seafood eat up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year. 1/3 of fish caught in the UK had plastic inside.
Hugo Tagholm of Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) stated the situation is similar to climate change because the plastic pollutes every natural system on Earth. He and other campaigners want to see a circular economy for plastics. This means that bottles are returned to the shop after use. Customers receive some money and the bottles are then refilled and reused. This would help to stop people throwing the plastic away.
In the UK, people use 38.5 billion plastic bottles every day. 16 million of these go to landfill or enter the oceans.
China is responsible for most of this increase. In 2015, Chinese consumers bought 68.4 billion bottles of water but in 2016 this number increased to 73.8 billion bottles. People moving from the countryside to the cities and a more Western lifestyle is the cause of this increase.
Major drinks brands produce the most plastic bottles. Coca-Cola produces more than 100 billion bottles every year. That is 3,400 a second. The top 6 drinks companies only use 6.6% recycled PET in their bottles. 2 of these companies will not increase the amount of recycled PET. None of these companies plans to be 100% recycled.
It is possible to make drinking bottles from 100% recycled plastic. This material is called RPET. Campaigners want companies to use this material but companies don’t want to. They believe PET bottles look better than RPET bottles because PET bottles are shiny clear plastic.
Using RPET bottles uses 75% less energy that PET. The British Plastic Federation (BPF) states that bottles can be 100% recycled material but companies must make the decision to use them themselves. The plastic industry doesn’t want to charge customers for using the plastic. However, a similar charge of 5p for plastic bags in the UK reduced plastic bag use by 80%.
Coca-Cola says it increases use of RPET in 44 of the 200 countries they operate in. The state there is not enough RPET in the world to use for all bottles.
Greenpeace said the big 6 drinks companies (Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Suntory, Danone, DrPepperSnapple and Nestle) need to do more: