Your Single-Use Water Bottle Probably Isn’t Recycled & If It Is, It’s Not Helping

Once a single-serve plastic water bottle is consumed it does not just disappear when it is tossed into a garbage can.



Source: Treehugger


Of the 80 million single-serve bottles of water consumed daily, 30 million end up in landfills. That stat is old data as of 2009. As of 2018, I can assure that it is much much more.

If those > than 30 million bottles do not make their final resting place in a landfill, they could either be incinerated or become a disturbance in natural ecosystems. I see them all the time!

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t be so reliant on bottled water, but we are.

We are wasting valuable space in landfills by filling it with bottles that are perfectly recyclable.  While not purchasing bottled water is the best option, recycling the bottles is the second best option because it reduces demand for landfill space.

Unfortunately, it does not help reduce the demand for oil because bottlers are not using recycling content anyway (Royte, 2008). Ironically, it is cheaper for bottlers to use virgin PET than recycled PET.


In an effort to combat criticism of high environmental and energy costs, some companies have turned to a new approach. The new approach, called ‘lightweighting,’ reduces the cost of production, the energy required for shipping, and the mass of plastic in landfills (Gleick, 2010).

These are the new eco-friendly water bottles with the flimsier plastic and smaller shape.

Regrettably, lightweighting does not increase recycling rates or reduce the number of bottles in landfills (Gleick, 2010). It definitely does not decrease the amount of bottles American purchase; it only helps them feel less guilty about it.


Last night I attended an event at my local Patagonia store called Vote Our Planet.

“We need to elect leaders at the local, state and national levels who will defend the well-being of our families and communities—leaders who support clean water, clean air, strong climate action and a courageous shift to renewable energy.

If we don’t act, then someone else will—someone who doesn’t care about a future for our children and other wild things.

The point was to get people to vote locally and nationally for our natural resources, because if we don’t, no one will. Additionally, Chicago Votes was there to register any new voters. Since I am already registered and I have been since I turned 18, I was asked to film a quick segment on why I am registered and how it makes me feel. Basically, I said that while being able to vote in presidential elections is an honor, it is also extremely important that young people vote in local elections as well.

In the first part of the event, we watched a segment from Patagonia on their Defend Our Air campaign, but you can also check out their Defend Our Water, and Defend Our Soil campaigns.

Afterward, there was a panel discussion that included people from Illinois Environmental Council, Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center. The audience asked questions ranging from how college students could get more involved in local politics, to what are the most challenging parts of their job.

Overall, the night was very informative and made me really think about how I have been lacking in participating in local and state elections. While the presidential election is the one making the news right now, the smaller elections are ones that can also help defend our air, water, and soil.

C3 Week 2: Energy

Last week our class discussed energy topics with a number of players from around Chicago and the state.

We heard from:

Our climate specialist discussed the climate of Chicago and how that may change over time. For instance, Chicago may be 4.4 Degrees to 4.7 Degrees warmer by mid-century and an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events are likely as well.

You can learn more about what Chicago plans to do by reading Chicago’s Climate Action Plan.

The class also got the chance to explore the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum‘s new exhibit “Weather to Climate: Our Changing World.” It was pretty neat and hands on. There was a game that let you calculate how much CO2 you put into the atmosphere each day!

Citizen’s Utility Board is a non-profit that represents the interests of Illinois ratepayers.


Source: CUB

They help individuals with their bills, conduct consumer education events and are advocates for energy efficiency and demand response programs.

Many utility bills are confusing, so we got an explanation of our electric bills and then the benefits of a smart grid.

After that, we discussed ComEd’s free home energy assessment that can provide free energy-saving products for your home. The products included programmable thermostats, ENERGY STAR certified CFLs, smart power trips, WaterSense certified shower heads, faucet aerators, and hot water pipe insulation.

Since the majority of us in C3 are not homeowners, we also discussed how to approach your landlord about taking part in this program. Basically, you need to explain all the benefits and mention a million times that it is FREE!

Finally, CDOT is in charge of building and maintaining our transportation network. It may seem random that we were talking about transportation in our energy class, but the goal was to talk about active forms of transportation that help reduce our reliance on cars and therefore energy.

The City of Chicago has some pretty impressive transportation goals:

  • 5% of all trips under 5 miles will be taken by bicycle
  • All Chicago residents will live within .5 miles of a bikeway
  • Reduce pedestrian and bicycle crash injuries, each by 5% within 5 years

We then talked about Chicago’s bike share system, Divvy, which is ideal for short trips and commutes. So far Divvy has 475 stations and 4,760 bikes. While I have not ridden a Divvy bike yet, I did ride the bike share in DC occasionally. I have my own bike, but I see plenty of people out riding Divvy on the streets and many bike lanes.


Source: Divvy Bikes