THE BLOG

Why It's Time to Declare War on Plastic Bottle Waste

28/03/2013 17:49 GMT | Updated 28/05/2013 10:12 BST

It is a common view that prevention is better than cure and the assertion holds particularly true when applied to the approach we take to the world we live in. The industrial development of the modern world has already impacted the environment so acutely that outright prevention is no longer possible. However, by changing the way we live, and, most importantly, consume, mankind's trajectory towards environmental ruin can be significantly reduced.

Environmentalist rhetoric is familiar yet so often ignored; manufacturers, brands and consumers need to pause for a minute, step back and consider what they, as individuals and corporations, can do for the greater environmental good. If SodaStream, a worldwide household name in the traditionally 'less than eco-friendly' industry of soft drinks manufacturing, can keep environmental considerations at the very heart of the business and continue to compete at a global level, perhaps it is time for competitors to follow suit.

The soft drinks business is a multi-billion pound industry, worth £14.5 billion in 2011 and continuing to rise. Year-on-year the giants of the soft drinks world are turning vast profits thanks our unwavering appetitive for fizzy beverages. The UK consumed nearly 14,140 million litres of soft drinks in 2011; a figure that the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) predicts could rise to 235.3 litres within the next year.

As the population begins to put a greater emphasis on healthy living, the demand for bottled water also seems to be set to continue. The product is one of the most skillfully marketed commodities around, promising purity and added minerals, yet a key consideration is overlooked: every bottle of water is just that, a bottle. Consumers may believe that it is better for them, but even a four year review by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) concluded that there is no assurance bottled water is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. The environmental impact that these quasi health practices has, however, is a very real problem.

As our thirsty population continues to consume PET at an alarming rate, one wonders if the true impact of this destructive habit is common knowledge: bottled soft drinks are bad for the environment, but do we even realise the damage they are causing? In the UK, 15 million plastic bottles are used every day, and, despite increasingly improving waste disposal services, 80% of these are not recycled. Everyday approximately one billion bottles and cans are dumped in parks, rivers oceans and landfill sites - almost 400 million of those in America alone. Shockingly, each plastic bottle then takes more than 450 years to break down. It is almost beyond comprehension to think that the first plastic bottles, used commercially in 1947, still have at least 400 years of life in them.

Given the sheer scale of waste, recycling is not enough. Something more needs to be done to halt the progress of that ever-growing mountain of plastic bottles. A proactive approach is necessary - the all-important act of prevention. 'Precycling' may seem like another ubiquitous buzz word but it offers a working solution to our current predicament in that it prevents the very creation of waste in the first place, eliminating the need to reduce or recycle.

Although to make a real impact, 'precycling' must be done on a huge, industrial scale, every day practices can make a considerable difference. Buying consumables in bulk to reduce on packaging, re-purposing items for an alternative uses and seeking out products that reduce CO2 footprints - also known as 'Active Green' products- are just some examples of the actions consumers can take.

While the major soft drinks companies focus on the development and encouragement of closed loop recycling, it's becoming more and more obvious that recycling is just not enough. The 'cure' doesn't work and is too reliant on consumers, many of whom do care, but are too busy or simply unable to act. Closed loop recycling will never stop the growth of the plastic bottle mountain; it will simply turn it into an ever-revolving wheel.