The UK consumes a shocking 13 billion plastic bottles each year. Even though 7.5 billion or those bottles are recycled, the remaining 5.5 billion are littered on landfills, end up in waters, or are incinerated. Fortunately, people are buying more and more sustainable bottles. What makes them sustainable and more importantly, could these sustainable alternatives be the future of the plastic bottle?
Alternatives Single-Use Plastic Bottle
Typically, plastic bottles have 3 main competitors in the market: stainless steel bottles, glass bottles, and sustainable plastic bottles.
1. Stainless Steel Bottles
Stainless steel bottles are made from natural elements that can easily be recycled into new products. Even though plastic bottles are also usually made out of recycled or recyclable materials, producing and recycling plastic bottles is less eco-friendly compared to stainless steel bottles.
Stainless steel bottles are made from materials that are strong and hard to break. At the same time, these materials also provide great insulating features. A steel bottle can keep your water cold for almost 24 hours and warm for an average of 6 hours.
Unlike plastic bottles, which can transfer harmful chemicals like BPA when used, stainless steel bottles are perfectly safe. Therefore, you can use high temperatures to wash them, making them easy to clean. Additionally, most stainless steel bottles are dishwasher-friendly.
On the downside, stainless steel bottles can sometimes leave water with a metallic taste. They are also more expensive than plastic bottles. That being said, if properly taken care of, a stainless steel bottle could be used for almost a lifetime.
2. Glass Bottles
Much like stainless steel, glass is 100% recyclable. They can be recycled over and over again without any loss in quality. The taste of water out of a glass bottle is also generally preferred over any other type of bottle. Not unlike stainless steel bottles, glass bottles do not leach chemicals into your water either. Since exposure to hot and cold temperatures has no effect on glass bottles, they are also easy to clean as well as dishwasher-proof.
Unfortunately, glass can be a fragile material when not used with care. Additionally, glass bottles do tend to be relatively more expensive compared to alternatives, including plastic bottles.
3. Sustainable Plastic Bottles
When compared with regular plastic bottles, there are more sustainable plastic bottles on the market. These bottles are a little thicker and stronger than regular plastic bottles.
Nowadays, most plastic bottles are made from recyclable materials. They are usually less expensive than stainless steel bottles and glass bottles. They are also considerably more trauma-resistant than glass bottles, however, that is not to say that they cannot be damaged.
These bottles can often leave a plastic taste after frequent use, and harmful chemicals such as BPA can easily leach into your drink. And although these bottles can resist warmer temperatures, they are more likely to leach harmful chemicals if subjected to slightly higher temperatures. Finally, at the end of the day, plastic is still needed to manufacture these bottles and there is already so much plastic in the world.
The Future is Circular
The future of the plastic bottle should be moving towards a circular economy in order to be fully sustainable. A circular economy is a sustainable alternative to the traditional linear economy. Instead of producing more and more plastic bottles and throwing them away, we should look for ways to keep them in use for as long as possible. In doing so, the linear line becomes a cycle, hence the term ‘circular economy’. In order to achieve this, we need to either switch to bottles that have a longer lifespan, or bottles that are easily recyclable.
Forecast of Plastic Bottles
Plastic pollution is still very much a problem today with still no sustainable concrete solutions. Although using alternatives and transitioning to a circular economy might provide a good temporary solution, this is by no means the end-all on the subject.