How to Reduce – Reuse – Recycle Your Plastic Water Bottle Waste

A woman holding a reusable water bottle

For more than 50 years, global production and consumption of plastics have continued to rise, and the trend will continue. Studies have estimated plastic production will triple by 2050.1 This uptick can be attributed to plastics’ attractive qualities – it’s versatile, lightweight, strong, moisture resistant, and relatively inexpensive. However, durable and very slow to degrade, plastic materials ultimately become waste with staying power. Our tremendous attraction to plastic, coupled with over-consuming, discarding, littering, and thus polluting a material that takes over 400 years to biodegrade, has become an incredibly dangerous combination.2

The result is a global plastic pollution problem that some environmentalists are referring to as an epidemic. In order to combat this crisis, there have been an increasing number of initiatives around recycling, including America Recycles Day on November 15.

America Recycles Day is an event organized by Keep America Beautiful, the largest community improvement organization in the United States, that focuses on educating, motivating, and encouraging people to not only recycle, but also commit to reducing and reusing.3

To celebrate and participate in this national holiday, our Quench Water Experts are going to share tips on how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle your water bottle waste.

Reduce Your Plastic Water Bottle Waste

The most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place. Making a new product requires a lot of materials and energy. In one year, the manufacturing of plastic water bottles burns about 6 million gallons of fuel and releases approximately 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.4 So, even if you recycle your plastic water bottle, the production of that water bottle has already caused a negative impact on the environment.

To reduce waste, you can limit the amount of water your drink from a single-use plastic water bottle or 5-gallon plastic water jug. This would be an unattractive option if the only alternative was to drink bad-tasting tap water. But don’t worry, reducing your single-use plastic water bottle or 5-gallon plastic water jug consumption does not mean you have to drink unfiltered tap water. You can drink great-tasting, filtered water from a pitcher, dispenser, or water cooler, or even get a filtration system installed on/under your faucet.

Here are a few water filtration options for your home:

  • Refrigerator water dispenser with built-in filtration technology
  • Water pitcher and/or dispenser with built-in filtration technology
  • Faucet mount with built-in filtration technology
  • Under sink filtration system

For your workplace, it would not be cost-effective and may not even be possible to use the same water filtration options. Luckily, there is an excellent alternative… bottleless water coolers! A bottleless water cooler, also referred to as a point-of-use (POU) water cooler, connects directly to a building’s existing water line and delivers water straight from the municipal water supply. This does not mean that the water cooler simply delivers tap water like a water fountain does; most point of use water coolers dispense water that has been filtered then chilled or heated within the water cooler. Some point of use water coolers can even dispense sparkling, flavored water, or ice.

Bottleless water coolers differ greatly from a traditional, 5-gallon water cooler in that the water is filtered on-site, right in the machine, rather than pre-filtered and bottled at an off-site manufacturing plant, and then delivered to a business. This not only reduces the waste of the plastic water bottles but also the production and distribution pollution associated with the plastic bottle or 5-gallon jug delivery service, including carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from burning fuel to produce and transport the plastic water bottles.

Although 5-gallon water jug delivery services encourage customers to return their plastic water jugs so that they can inspect, clean, and sanitize the bottles and then refill them for reuse, the 5-gallon water jugs can only be refilled on average about 40 times before needing to be discarded due to damage from wear and tear.5 Ideally, these plastic bottles would be recycled, but studies show that less than 30 percent of plastic bottles purchased in the U.S are recycled each year, and only about 70 percent of the plastic material can be used in the recycling process.6  

Reuse Your Water Bottle

Once a product is produced and the environmental impact of manufacturing that product has already been culminated, then the next best way to reduce waste is to reuse the product. This is extremely applicable for many products we purchase including shoes, wallets, clothing, jewelry, cars, etc. But for some products it may not be possible to reuse them (i.e. paper plates, paper towels, napkins, etc.) or safe to reuse them (i.e. single-use plastic water bottles).

Disposable water bottles can be made of bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is an industrial chemical added to plastic to make it stronger and has been linked to liver and prostate cancer, heart disease, and cognitive problems in addition to asthma and diabetes. Studies have found that the chemicals can leach from the plastic bottle into the water if the bottles were subjected to heat, and the risk became even greater overtime as the bottle began to crack and show signs of degradation. Because of this, experts don’t recommend refiling single-use plastic water bottles.7

But just because it isn’t safe to refill a single-use plastic water bottle doesn’t mean you can’t reuse any water bottle. There are safe options out there including BPA-free plastic reusable water bottles, aluminum reusable water bottles, and glass water bottles. By refilling a reusable water bottle you can personally save an average of 156 plastic water bottles from being produced each year, which will also eliminate the associated distribution pollution.8 Click here for a list of the “16 Best Reusable Water Bottles in 2019.”

Recycle Your Water Bottles

If you can’t reduce the use of a product or you can’t reuse the product… or maybe it’s seen its time, then your best option is to recycle the product once you’re done with it (if you can). Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products.9 Unfortunately, not all products can be recycled, but most of them can.

Here is a list of items you can typically recycle:10

  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Plastic
  • Aluminum
  • Glass

By recycling plastic water bottles, you’re eliminating the need for additional plastic to be produced. Bottled water production and consumption comes at the expense of our environment. In 2016, about 480 billion plastic bottles were purchased globally but less than half get recycled, meaning most of this plastic waste ends up in our waterways and landfills. Even worse, it is expected that the world’s increasing thirst for bottled beverages will bump these figures up another 20 percent, or 583 billion plastic bottles, by 2021—fueling a crisis that experts believe will be as serious as climate change.11

Our Mission at Quench

As we reach a record amount of pollution on our planet, we each need to do our part to help save the environment that we all know and love. At Quench, enhancing the sustainability efforts of our customers is a core value of our service. We help our customers eliminate the use of bottled drinking water delivery services and the incumbent fossil fuel depletion, carbon emissions, and additional plastic waste by filtering a building’s existing water supply at the point-of-use (POU) via a bottleless water cooler.

A standard Quench water cooler prevents approximately 150 five-gallon plastic water jugs from ending up in landfills and waterways each year and reduces all the associated production and transportation pollution. By adding a Quench water cooler to your business, you are taking the next step to becoming an eco-friendlier company and possibly LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.

Not only does Quench strive to make the businesses we work with eco-friendlier, we also incorporate sustainable environmental practices in our operations wherever possible. Quench continually seeks to improve product offerings and business practices to reduce our own environmental footprint. To learn more about how Quench ‘walks the walk’, check out our Environmental Sustainability Mission Statement.

And we’re sticking to what we said in our opening paragraph, “the most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place.” So, stop using single-use plastic water bottles or 5-gallon plastic water jugs at your workplace and switch to a Quench filtered water cooler for clean, great-tasting drinking water that will positively impact the planet today, and every day.

Visit our website to view our products and see which one is right for your workplace. And show us how your company is becoming more sustainable on social media by following us on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter using the hashtags #AmericaRecyclesDay and #BeRecycled.