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Life Cycle of Plastic Bottles

9/23/2013 2:12:57 PM | by Anonymous

Bottles: Plastic

Plastic bottles are commonly used in our daily lives. They are widely used to package a variety of things ranging from soft drinks to juices. Unknowingly, they play a ubiquitous role in many of consumers’ lives. Due to the growing environmental awareness which surrounds plastic, many have become growingly interested in the life cycle of plastic bottles. This includes from manufacturing to the eventual disposal of the bottles into landfills or recycling facilities. Being aware of the process can serve as an encouragement to consumers to think carefully about how they use and dispose of plastic bottles. Plastic bottles are very visible form of plastic use, it is an easy target for educational and activism purposes.

The life cycle of a plastic bottle begins with the creation of the plastic used to make the bottles. They are manufactured from petroleum. However, some manufacturers use bioplastics from plants to create their plastic bottles as they take the environment into consideration. The plastic used in bottles are made by mixing chemical catalysts with extracted hydrocarbon from crude oil with chemical catalysts. Next, plastic pellets are melted down to form “performs”. They basically look like small test tubes which are heated causing them to expand and transformed into water bottles for conventional uses. Bottling companies usually order performs and then begin with the expansion process with the facilities they own.

For plastic bottles made of bioplastics, they are made from plant materials processed to form polymers. They are believed to be more environmentally friendly since they do not require extraction of crude oil which is a non-renewable resource. Many companies which manufacture them try at best to use environmental practices. Additionally, bioplastic has a rapid decomposition rate; the life cycle is thus extremely short. In fact, some will begin to deform and leak if they are kept for too long. However, they too come with environmental issues. The production of plastic bottles requires large areas of farmland to produce the crops for plastic. These crops eat up a relatively huge amount of fuel, water and other resources. As they are disposable while being environmentally friendly, some activists fear that they may distract consumers from friendlier choices.


Moving on, companies will order “perform” and use them when needed depending on the size of the plant. The plastic bottles are then sterilized to ensure safe consumption for storing beverages. When they are filled, they will also be capped, labeled, packed and prepared for the shipping process. At this stage, the plastic bottles can then land up at various locations such as a camp for refugees to the shelf of a supermarket.


One advantage of plastic bottles is that they are extremely sturdy. This makes it a lot easier to ship beverages in plastics than any other materials. They are also very light weight. Thus, manufacturers constantly come up with new ways to use less plastic to cut down on production and shipping costs. The lightweight material also helps to cut down fuel costs.


Once the plastic bottles lands in the hands of a consumer, they will result to three possible fates. They will be reused, recycled or thrown away. Despite the fact that they are relatively easy to recycle, the recycling rates are however low and most of which are still thrown away. This is due to plastic being easily accessible and relatively cheap. Many people believe in reusing the bottles followed by recycling. Plastic bottles can be re-used but it should not contain hot materials. They should also wash it regularly as plastic bottles are very hospitable to bacteria. It can potentially cause health risks for people who drink from them. After being used, it should then be recycled. During the recycling process, many plastic bottles are shredded into chips then sterilized and sold to companies who utilize recycled plastic. They can be used for everything.


When plastic bottles end up at a landfill, they usually take years to decay. Plastic bottles are the most common form of litter around. Sometimes, they even require government agencies as well as volunteers to collect them and bring forth to land fills. As they decay, they take up a lot of land fill space and leach chemicals that are harmful into the ground which pollutes the water and soil. For bioplastic bottles, the life cycle is slightly different. Since they are disposable, they combust very quickly under the optimal conditions.


The stages of a plastic bottles’ life cycle are determined largely by the type of plastic as well as the interaction with the bottle over its lifetime. Consumers have a huge role in deciding the end fate of the bottles. Many environmental organizations have since then targeted heavily consumers encouraging them to reduce their use of plastics, reuse and recycling them. The next time you come across a plastic bottle, you could probably think first of the substances it contains. Instead of throwing them away, maybe you could decide on recycling them instead.

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