In today’s modern era of convenience, plastic containers have become an almost ubiquitous part of our daily lives, particularly water bottles. Luckily, there are many people out there who do try to reuse water bottles or toss them in a recycling bin when they are finished with them. If more people were aware of the “life cycle” of these all too common clear plastic containers, perhaps the number of reusers and recyclers would increase even more. Recycling rates are unfortunately low for these bottles globally, despite the ease with which the plastic that they are formed from can be recycled.
The majority of water bottles available on the market today are made of polyethylene terephtalate, often referred to as PET plastic. Almost a third of the PET produced in the world today goes into making bottles. PET is manufactured from one of the components extracted from crude oil, hydrocarbons, which are mixed with chemical catalysts. After polymerization has occurred, plastic pellets are formed and melted into what are known in the industry as “preforms”. These may be sold as is by the plastic manufacturer, or heated and expanded into the familiar shape of water bottles. Most major bottling operations will order the preforms and expand the bottles on an as-needed basis.
Because these bottles will contain water and other beverages for human consumption, they must be sterilized before they can be filled and labeled. Plastic bottles are popular with manufacturers because they are lightweight for shipping, saving on fuel costs.