The infinite triangular loop of arrows we know as the recycling symbol adorns millions of plastic soda and water bottles we carefully sort in the blue bin. It comforts us with the idea that each one will be recycled over and over again forever.
But unfortunately, most of the time, it's a lie.
Many bottles aren't recycled at all, and those that do get recycled usually aren't turned into other bottles or recycled again after that. Instead, they end up in the world's landfills — or worse, in the ocean.
If want to learn what happens to plastic water bottles in the recycling bin, keep on reading.
Can You Recycle Plastic Water Bottles?
While most plastic bottles are “recyclable,” few are actually recycled. In fact, about seven of 10 plastic water bottles get incinerated, dumped into landfills, or left as litter.
And less than 30% of plastic bottles that are recycled in the U.S. are “downcycled.” Also known as cascaded recycling or open-loop recycling, downcycling occurs when a material is remade into an item of lower quality. These items typically can't be recycled again, which cuts an item's overall life cycle short.
Most plastic water bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This wonderful plastic (tasteless, clear, light, flexible, strong) could be recycled and made into new bottles, but it isn't. Even the fraction of PET that is recycled ends up being downcycled into clothes, carpet, toys, and packaging materials.
While recycling closes the loop and keeps an item in circulation, downcycling turns that loop into a one-way arrow. From there, a material can only go downhill. After outliving its usefulness as a carpet or a bench, the next stop is the landfill or incinerator.
Are Water Bottles Bad For The Environment?
One major aspect of purchasing various items is trying to ensure that they are safe as well as environmentally friendly. As such, when buying items, ask yourself whether they will pose a threat to the environment.
Just in case you had no idea, single-use plastic water bottles are bad for the environment. We are sure you are most likely wondering why something as seemingly harmless as a water bottle can be bad for the environment. The reason is not far-fetched. It is because water bottles cause various types of damage to the environment, from the mass production process to distribution to consumption.
Check out this article to learn more about single-use plastics.
What Can You Do?
While most bottles are not recycled and end up in landfills, the good news is that there are lots of ways to reuse plastic water bottles instead of throwing them in the blue bin.
Here are just a few:
In case you own some outdoor plants or a lawn, you can decide to keep them happy by using your old water bottles as sprinklers. All you need do is simply poke holes in them, connect the water hose and hold it in place firmly with tape. Turn on the tap and watch your sprinklers come to life. You can also use your old water bottles as bird feeders.
As silly as it sounds, you can make use of your old water bottles to create a wall of art. All you need is to gather different plastic bottles of different colors, and there you can easily create an artistic and aesthetically pleasing craft project using water bottles.
Old water bottles can make good storage containers. You get to store anything of your choice in them as long as they fit into the bottles properly. This way, you also get to save money on buying storage containers.
If you're ready to cut down on your plastic use, make the switch and invest in a hydration companion you can count on. Stainless steel water bottles like our Roamer Bottle are eco-friendly and do not contribute to plastic pollution. With vacuum insulation technology, your water stays cold for hours, so you won't miss purchasing plastic water bottles.