Plastic Bottle Waste: How is it Damaging the Planet? Written by Tatiana Lebreton Published on 24 August 2023 ✔ Roughly 80% of the world’s plastic bottles end up in landfills✔ Plastic waste causes health problems in marine species and humans✔ Switching to a reusable bottle can save the average Brit 94.4 kg of CO2 a yearPlastic bottle waste is a problem because there’s so much of it, with 1 million plastic bottles purchased every minute, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).Most of these bottles don’t end up in the recycling bin either, and the damage they cause isn’t just to nature and wildlife – they can harm humans as well.Want to learn more? In this article, we’ll go over what exactly plastic bottle pollution is, explain the negative effects it has on the planet, and provide some simple tips on how you can reduce it. Plastic bottle waste factsRoughly 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide are created from the process of manufacturing and filling plastic bottles every year (Officeh2o.com)The average Brit could save 94.4 kilograms (kg) of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year by switching to reusable bottlesFor every six bottles of water bought, only one is recycled (National Geographic)In the UK alone, nearly 16 million plastic bottles aren’t being recycled each year (Refill.org.uk)About 80% of plastic water bottles end up in landfills worldwide (Huffington Post)Over 8 million tonnes worth of plastic bottles end up in the ocean each year (PlasticExpert.co.uk)Plastic bottles take around 450 years to decompose (World Wide Fund for Nature) What's on this page? 01 What is plastic bottle pollution? 02 Plastic water bottle pollution facts 03 How many times can you reuse a plastic water bottle? 04 Benefits of reusable water bottles 05 How to reduce single-use plastic waste at home 06 Summary What is plastic bottle pollution?Plastic bottle pollution is pretty self-explanatory – it refers to single-use plastic bottles ending up as waste in landfills, the oceans, and on beaches.These bottles aren’t just an eyesore for us, they can also harm wildlife. Animals often get sick, or die, from eating or getting stuck in plastic waste. For example, a whale found washed up on a beach in Indonesia had 115 cups, 25 bags, four bottles, and two slippers in its stomach.But the bigger issue is that plastic doesn’t really decompose.Plastic bottles take around 450 years to ‘decompose’, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). But they don’t get broken down into organic matter – such as carbon dioxide, water, and minerals – that can be reused, the way fruit peels or dead animals do.Instead, the plastic particles just get smaller and smaller. These small plastic particles are called ‘microplastics’, and they end up everywhere – from inside marine animals, to soil and water and the food we eat. Recent studies have even found microplastics inside human organs.What's worse, the mountain of microplastics is continuing to grow each year. According to research from Kyushu University, there are currently twenty-four trillion pieces of microplastics in the ocean alone, the equivalent of 30 billion half-litre water bottles.This should be a cause for concern, since microplastics can be dangerous. Studies on fish, for example, found that microplastics can damage their liver and reproductive health. But it’s not just fish. Research has also found that microplastics can be harmful to humans, increasing their risk of cancer and infertility. Plastic water bottle pollution factsHere are a few facts about plastic water bottle pollution that you might not have known:Globally, roughly 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)Roughly 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide are created from the process of manufacturing and filling plastic bottles every yearThe average Brit could save 94.4 kilograms (kg) of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year by switching to reusable bottles, the equivalent of spending 8,939 hours streaming films and TV showsFor every six bottles of water bought, one is recycled, according to National GeographicIn the UK alone, nearly 16 million plastic bottles aren’t being recycled each yearAbout 80% of plastic water bottles end up in landfills worldwideOver 8 million tonnes of plastic bottles end up in the ocean each year How many times can you reuse a plastic water bottle?The general advice is that you should only reuse plastic water bottles around one to two times – as long as you properly wash the bottle before each new use.But remember, single-use plastic bottles aren’t designed to last a long time – it’s in the name after all. The thin plastic they’re made of will often become damaged very quickly, to the point where you can’t reuse the bottle even if you wanted to.Additionally, try not to reuse plastic bottles that have become cracked, or have been sitting in a warm environment, such as a hot car. All these things can increase the chance of harmful bacteria developing in the water bottles. That’s why it’s important to recycle plastic bottles when they start to smell.Reusable water bottles can also become infected with bacteria, which is why these should also be cleaned regularly. Since most of them are dishwasher safe, this is very easy to do. A single-use water bottle, on the other hand, would just melt in the dishwasher. Benefits of reusable water bottlesThe main benefit of reusable water bottles is that you only need to buy one, saving you from buying plastic bottles over and over again. This not only limits the amount of plastic being produced, but can also save you money.Here’s a list of the key benefits of reusable water bottles:Reduces plastic waste – Fewer bottles being bought and thrown away will reduce the amount ending up in landfills. Even if you recycle your water bottles, most plastics can only be recycled two to three times before they degrade beyond the point of reusability, so it’s best to limit the amount you buyProtects wildlife – An estimated 100,000 marine mammals die from plastic pollution every year, according to WWF. That’s not even counting the number of aquatic birds, fish, and other marine life that are also killed by plastic. Reducing plastic waste can help lower these numbers, and preserve biodiversitySaves money – Refilling the same bottle with tap water saves you having to buy new ones every day, so it’s good for the planet and your walletLowers your carbon footprint – Manufacturing and filling single-use plastic bottles uses energy, most of which comes from fossil fuels. By swapping to a reusable bottle the average Brit could lower their carbon footprint, saving 94.4 kg of CO2 each yearSuitable for hot and cold water – Many reusable water bottles, particularly ones made of stainless steel, can double up as a thermos for storing hot water. Their insulating properties also mean they can also keep water cold on a hot day How to reduce single-use plastic waste at homeThere are many ways to reduce single-use plastic waste at home, and most are just simple, easy swaps.For starters, try to avoid single-use plastic cups, plates, and cutlery. Use permanent dining ware for everyday use. If you’re hosting a birthday party or a barbecue, try buying paper plates and cups, and wooden cutlery.When ordering a takeaway from home, ask the restaurant not to give you cutlery. Although a few restaurants provide customers with wooden cutlery, this isn’t the norm yet, so it’s best to use the ones you have at home instead.Reduce the amount of online shopping you do. Even though more and more online retailers use plastic-free packaging, not all do, and you often won’t know this until the item arrives. Plus, buying more items in person will reduce your carbon footprint, since it’ll cut down on transport emissions.You can also try to buy products with minimal packaging, or ones with cardboard or paper packaging instead of plastic. This might be hard to do, depending on where you live, and won’t be possible with all products (such as meat and some dairy products), but every little helps.You can find out about more ways to be eco-friendly by visiting our helpful guide. SummaryThe mass production of plastic bottles is getting out of hand, with most ending up as waste in landfills and oceans, where they harm wildlife, and turn into microplastics that seep into our food and water.Cutting back on single-use plastics, such as water bottles, is a good step towards cleaning up the planet, but it’s important not to feel stressed if you can't cut out single-use plastics entirely.Not everyone has the time and resources to do this, and large businesses around the world aren’t making it easy either – plastic is everywhere.That’s why we need more measures like the government’s upcoming plastic cutlery ban. As a society, we need to shift the burden of responsibility away from consumers, and move it on to the companies that manufacture and sell single-use plastic products. Written by: Tatiana Lebreton Tatiana has written about multiple environmental topics, including heat pumps, energy-efficient household products, and solar panels. She is dedicated to demystifying green tech to make eco-friendly living more accessible.