Millions of Plastic Bottles a Minute: Consumption Remains a Problem

Plastic bottles, one of the most common formats in the global packaging industry for centuries, is now under the spotlight as the consumption of such packaged products is causing a big issue for plastic bottle waste around the globe, polluting oceans, coastlines, landfill and other environments. Although increasing efforts have been taken place in the world to reduce the number of plastics bottles, boost recycling and develop new alternative packaging formats, but education around how to recycle plastic bottles and overall solutions to plastic bottle waste remains one of the toughest challenges for environmentalists to tackle.


How many plastic water bottles are used each year?


According to recent reports from Euromonitor International’s global packaging trends report, currently over 1 million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute, and the annual consumption of plastic bottles is expected to surpass 580 billion by 2021. This soaring consumption is mainly driven by the insatiable demand of bottled water, boosted by an urbanized culture that is “on the go” and growing consciousness of “healthy drinks” in major countries across the globe.

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In 2016, over 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold across the globe, compared to about 300 plastic bottled water sold in 2006. The figures obtained by The Guardian reveal that less than half of the bottles sold in 2016 were properly processed for recycling, of which only 7% were turned into new bottles, while the most of these plastic bottles were ended up in landfill or dumped in the ocean.


Plastic water bottles pollution


The Guardian also reports that most of the plastic bottles used for water and other beverages are made from polyethylene terephthalate (Pet), which is highly recyclable. However, the growth of plastic bottles consumption has outpaced recycling capability in majority of the countries, meaning that the efforts to recycle these and keep them from polluting the environment, has become a big challenge to tackle.


Environmental impact of plastic bottles


China is currently the largest plastic bottles consumers in the world, according to the report from Euromonitor. The consumption of bottled water in China is responsible of nearly 25% of global consumption. In 2015, over 68.4 billion bottles of water were sold in China and in 2016 this figure increased to 73.8 billion bottles. By far, the Chinese government has yet come up with a solution to tackle the issue caused by the country’s huge volume of used plastic bottles.


Meanwhile in UK, over 38.5 million plastic bottles are sold every day – only around 20 million are processed for recycling, while more than 16 million are put into landfill, burnt or dumped into the environment and oceans each day. The UK government has been urged to introduce a money-back return scheme for plastic bottles to encourage recycling. Recycling rates for plastic bottles in UK is just around 59%, compared with more than 90% in countries with deposit return schemes, such as Germany, Norway and Sweden.

How do you think we should solve the global plastic bottle waste issue?

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