Usage of plastic bottles is on the rise, with sales projected to jump to a further 20 per cent by 2021. According to latest figures obtained by The Guardian, half a trillion bottles would be sold by the end of the decade. Campaigners consider this issue to be as serious as climate change.
Plastic bottles, which gained popularity across the world due to the western “on the go” culture, have a demand equivalent to 20,000 bottles being bought each second. The amount of bottles sold has soared to 480 billion in 2016 from 300 billion in the previous decade.
If placed end to end, the bottles would extend more than halfway to the sun. According to Euromonitor International’s global packaging trends report, the projected increase in plastic bottles is expected to amount to 583.3 billion by 2021.
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Polyethylene terephthalate (Pet) is used to make most of the plastic bottles that contain soft drinks or water. Although Pet is highly recyclable, the growing production of water bottles is making it difficult to collect and recycle the bottles in order to prevent them from polluting the oceans.
Of all the bottles bought in 2016, less than half were collected for recycling, of which only 7 per cent were transformed into new bottles. Majority of the plastic bottles ended up in landfill or in the ocean.
Five million to 13 million tonnes of plastic is leaked into the oceans every year to be consumed by sea birds, fish and other organisms. According to experts, some plastic has already become a part of the human food chain. Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium have found that humans who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 minute pieces of plastic each year.
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Impact of plastics pollution in oceans around the world is becoming a serious concern. Around 18 tonnes of plastic were found by scientists on one of the world’s remotest islands, a coral atoll in the South Pacific.
Arctic beaches were also found to be heavily polluted with plastic, despite small local populations. According to scientists, plastic bottles and other packaging are overrunning UK’s scenic beaches and coastlines, endangering marine life such as basking sharks and puffins.
Most of the increase in the demand for plastic bottles comes from China, as the Chinese public demand for water bottles constitutes almost a quarter of the global demand, said Rosemary Downey, head of packaging at Euromonitor.
“It is a critical country to understand when examining global sales of plastic Pet bottles, and China’s requirement for plastic bottles continues to expand,” said Downey.
Most plastic bottles are produced by major drinks brands, each of them producing around 100 billion throwaway plastic bottles every year, according to Greenpeace. It is also estimated that the top six drinks companies of the world use a combined average of only 6.6 per cent of Pet in their products.
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Manufacturing plastic drinking bottles from 100 per cent recycled plastic, known as RPet, is possible. While campaigners are pressuring drinks companies to increase the amount of recycled plastic, brands are resistant to change as they want their products in shiny, clear plastic, says Steve Morgan, of Recoup in the UK.
According to Greenpeace, the six major drinks need to make more effort to increase the use of recyclable plastic in their bottles.
“During Greenpeace’s recent expedition exploring plastic pollution on remote Scottish coastlines, we found plastic bottles nearly everywhere we went,” said Louisa Casson, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace.
“It’s clear that the soft drinks industry needs to reduce its plastic footprint.”
This story originally appeared on The Guardian.
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