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.
Single-use plastic water bottles waste resources
Making and shipping a new plastic bottle uses energy, water, and other resources. First, plastic is made from crude oil and natural gas, then it’s used to make a bottle. It takes a third of a liter of water to make a bottle that holds a liter!
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. All 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 recycling and making new bottles uses a lot more energy and resources than getting one durable water bottle and reusing 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 gets broken down into raw material. Making the new bottle uses energy, water, and other chemicals. Finally, the recycled plastic bottle gets shipped to the store. Because the plastic has to go through so many steps, recycled plastic bottles only reduce climate impacts by 20-35 percent compared with brand-new plastic.
The problem with relying on recycling
And that's not even the whole story! Most "recycled" bottles are made with a small amount of recycled plastic and a larger amount of 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!