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  • Writer's pictureLitter Free Norbury

From Oil Wells to Ocean Waves: The Lifecycle of a Plastic Bottle

Greetings, Norbury!


Today we're taking a dive into the life of a very familiar item: the plastic bottle. They house our fizzy drinks, our water, our juices... they're everywhere! Unfortunately, we've all seen it, plastic bottles scattered across streets, parks, and sometimes even our own backyards. They're a symbol of our modern, convenience-driven society. But have you ever stopped to think about the journey a plastic bottle undertakes before it ends up as litter?


Today, we're going on a voyage, tracking the life of a plastic bottle, to understand why "it looks bad" is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the environmental harm caused.



Born in an Oil Well


It might surprise you to know that the journey of a plastic bottle begins in an oil well. Plastic is derived from petroleum or natural gas, both non-renewable resources. The extraction process contributes to air and water pollution, habitat destruction, and increased carbon emissions – factors that contribute to climate change.


From Raw Material to Bottle


Once extracted, the raw material is sent to a refinery where it's converted into plastic pellets. This transformation requires substantial energy, increasing the product's carbon footprint. The pellets are then shipped to a manufacturing plant where they're moulded into plastic bottles. These manufacturing processes release harmful chemicals into the environment and contribute to air pollution.


The Short Joyride


After being filled, capped, and labelled, these bottles embark on a short-lived joyride. They serve their purpose, quenching thirst, maybe even getting recycled once or twice. But unfortunately, the journey for many of these bottles doesn’t end in a recycling bin.


The Long Goodbye


Once discarded, a plastic bottle's journey is far from over. If it doesn't end up in a recycling bin, it often lands in a landfill, an incinerator, or, regrettably, our natural environment, including our beloved Norbury. In a landfill, a plastic bottle can take up to 450 years to decompose, slowly leaching harmful chemicals into the ground as it breaks down. If incinerated, it releases toxic chemicals into the air. They can end up in our oceans, turning into microplastics, getting ingested by sea creatures, and eventually entering our food chain.


A new life – if we're lucky


Only a small fraction of plastic bottles get to enjoy a new life. Through recycling, they can be turned into clothing, carpeting, or even new bottles. But this process, too, isn't devoid of environmental impacts, as it requires energy and generates waste.

In this journey, every step adds to the harm caused to our environment. From extraction to disposal, a plastic bottle leaves a heavy footprint. So, next time you reach for a single-use plastic bottle, remember its journey. And consider alternatives: refillable water bottles, water fountains, or even good old-fashioned tap water in a glass.


While our community continues to battle litter on our streets, understanding the wider impacts of these seemingly harmless objects is crucial. Together, we can make a difference, for Norbury and for our planet.


Keep fighting the good fight,


Litter Free Norbury Team

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