Why Recycling is NOT Enough to Solve Plastic Bottle Pollution

The environmental impact that we humans have is very complex.  Much of what we do in our daily lives have unintended consequences.  There are some that believe plastics need to eliminated from being used.  There may be some valid points to their argument however, the alternatives are usually not as environmentally friendly as what we have today.  In most cases plastics provide a more environmental and healthy packaging solution than their predecessor.  Yes, it is true our abuse of plastics has lead to pollution issues in the oceans, landfills and other areas that we may never be able to fully clean up.  Although there are a number of environmental groups, organizations, companies and many individuals who are diligently trying to solve the plastic pollution issue.

Like minded individuals came together with the common goal to helping solve the plastic pollution issue and as a result we created ENSO Bottles.   Our mission and goal is to solve the plastic pollution issue specifically as a result of bottles.  If you have ever noticed we each use A LOT of bottles during our day to day living; shampoo, cosmetics, soap, hand sanitizer, water, soda, juice, milk, cleaning supplies, and the list goes on.  After several years of R&D we brought to market a solution that allows bottles to naturally biodegrade, especially when they end up in the most common place, a landfill.  Our bottles are also fully recyclable and can comingle with the existing recycle streams.

A common question that I get asked is if we have recycling and everything is “potentially” recyclable, what do we need biodegradable bottle for?  This is a very good question, and the answer is that we need both!  Recycling is a GREAT solution and provides a means for using less fossil fuels, especially with close-loop recycling.  This is where bottles that were used for such products as water and soda go back into making more water and soda bottles.  This keeps the carbon in the loop and minimizes the need to use virgin plastic material.  For open-loop recycling such as what we mostly have today, bottles used for water and soda go into making products that can’t or aren’t recycled again.  This process is also called down-cycling and those products mostly end up disposed of in landfills.  The recycle rate in the United States is quoted at roughly 26% although this rate does NOT include the billions of recyclable bottles that are used for shampoo, soap, hand sanitizer, etc; PET recycling is really focused on specific water and soda bottles (see animation).  If you were to include all possible PET bottles that “could” be recycled the recycle rate in the US would be closer to 5%.

A report was recently published stating that recycling only begins to have a positive environmental impact once rates of 50% or higher is achieved.  So why is it a better environmental solution to have both biodegradable and recyclable?  It is going to take us decades to get recycle rates up to the 80 – 90% range, until then are we ok with continuing to contribute to the MASSIVE global plastic pollution problem or do we start to do something today that will fit in with the existing goal of recycling, prevent the problem from getting bigger and provide some positive benefits along the way.  ENSO Bottles is a solution we have available to us today, many brands are using the bottles which can be found in thousands of retail locations.  The bottles fully integrate into the existing recycling infrastructure and for those BILLIONS of bottles that end up in landfills, the will naturally biodegrade in biogas and soil.  And, the biogases can be used, and is being used at hundreds of landfills to create clean energy thus offsetting the need to use additional fossil fuel for electricity.

Note:  In 2005 is it estimated that we purchased over 30 billion water bottles alone.  That same year we recycled 12% with the remaining 25 “B”-illion going into the landfill.  That is the equivalent to 845 bottles per second.  Given an average 16.9oz bottle that would be 24 cubic feet per second or in other words, the room you are probably sitting in would take approx. 72 seconds to fill from floor to ceiling.  So by the time you read this blog and watch the animation you would be swimming in water bottles.  That’s just for water bottles, now imagine including soda, shampoo, soap, juice, cosmetics and all the other dozens of industries using plastic bottles.  It is truly mind boggling.