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Environmental Impact From Bottled Water

Here are some basic facts about the amount and number of plastic bottled used each year in the U.S. alone.

  • 2 million plastic bottles used every 10 minutes (U.S. only)
  • 2 billion plastic bottles used every week (U.S. only)
  • 51 billion plastic bottles go into landfills every year (U.S. only)
  • Placed end-to-end they would stretch around Earth’s equator over 190 times


Only some of these discarded plastic bottle are actually being recycled.  The majority end up in land fills and other waste depositories.  The environmental impact from this waste is staggering to consider.

  • Takes 700 years before a plastic bottle in any landfill starts to decompose
  • Less than 30% of plastic bottles in the U.S. are recycled
  • 80 million non-biodegradable plastic bottles discarded in the U.S. every day
  • Takes 3 liters of water to produce one liter-size bottle of water


What are the Global Consequences?

Ultimately, not all the plastic waste or global garbage is processed in any environmentally friendly manner.  A considerable amount is simply dumped into the ocean.  The biodegradable waste is broken down by the sun, surf, and salt water, however, the non-biodegradable waste (such as plastic) simply floats with the ocean currents.

Some ocean currents known as Gyre's move in a circular motion and create a vortex of moving water from with little ever escapes.  There are two such Gyre currents in the North Pacific.  One is located between Japan and Hawaii while the other is located between Hawaii and the west coast of the U.S.  Together these gyres cover most of the northern Pacific Ocean and have become the site of an unusually intense collection of man-made marine debris, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the 8th Continent.

Pacific Garbage Patch


How Big is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

There are unsubstantiated claims that the Eastern and Western Garbage Patches together cover the same area as the entire country of India.  Some of the claims for the Western Garbage Patch alone include:

  • In 2007, Western Garbage Patch was twice the size of Texas
  • From mid 1990’s to 2007, it has tripled in size
  • It contains over 3.5 million tons of plastic waste
  • It is over 30 meters (100ft) deep at the center


Pacific Garbage Patch

Due to the location of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (in international waters) and the estimated cost to clean it up, no country has been willing to take any responsibility for this ecological catastrophe. In other words, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch continues to grow into the largest ecological disaster in human history.

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