Americans drank 14 billion gallons of bottled water in 2019. That's 3500 single-use bottles every second! Only one of every four plastic bottles get recycled in the US -- the rest end up in the landfill or as litter. But even if you always recycle your plastic water bottles, it's best not to make waste in the first place.
Jump to water bottle filling locations.
Single-use water bottles waste natural resources
Making and shipping a new plastic bottle uses energy, water, and other natural resources. First, plastic is made from crude oil and natural gas, then it’s used to make a bottle. Making a plastic liter bottle uses a third of a liter of water!
After the bottle is filled with water, it’s shipped to stores where you can buy it. Water is heavy so it uses a lot of energy to ship, especially if it is coming from far away. The bottled water we drank in the US in 2016 produced as many greenhouse gas emissions as 2.5 million passenger cars!
Recycling helps, but not as much as reuse
Reuse saves energy
Recycling your single-use water bottle is better than throwing it away. But it's much better to get one durable water bottle and reuse it. Washing your reusable water bottle uses much less water and energy than making new plastic water bottles.
Recycling takes energy and resources
When you recycle a plastic bottle, it has to get broken down into raw material before it can be used to make something new. That process takes energy and water. Making a new bottle from that plastic also uses energy, water, and other resources. Finally, the recycled plastic bottle has to be shipped to the store. Because the bottle you recycle has to go through so many steps to make a new bottle, it only reduces climate impacts by 20-35 percent compared with brand-new plastic.
We can't recycle our way out of the problem
That's not even the whole story! Most "recycled" bottles are made with ten to thirty percent recycled plastic but are mostly new plastic. So even recycled bottles still take new plastic to make!
To top it off, less than half of the water bottles that are recycled get made into new bottles. Most are made into polyester fabric that doesn't get recycled — that makes a plastic dead-end.
Reusing is much better for the planet than single-use bottles, even when you recycle them!
The City of Kirkland's Recycling Team has provided bottle filling stations around town to make it easier for you to choose reusable!