Three ways to deal with plastic bottles

Last year there was a fairly high profile report on plastic waste, and it generated a lot of discussion. It showed that of the 78 million tonnes of plastic produced globally each year, only 2% gets recycled back into new plastics. 40% ends up in landfill, and just short of a third goes into the natural environment, polluting land and water. Perhaps in response, there’s currently a little flurry of projects and ideas around plastic. Water bottles are getting a lot of attention, and here are three ideas kicking around at the moment for how to deal with them:

Bring in a bottle deposit. Bottle deposit schemes used to be commonplace for glass bottles, and still are in some places. In Norway, they operate one for plastic bottles. 1 Krone is added to the cost of drinks in plastic bottles, so people bring them back. An impressive 96% of them are recycled, and some people would like to see a similar scheme in Britain. Prince Charles is lobbying for it, the Scottish government are studying Norway’s model, and Surfers Against Sewage are leading the popular campaign for it. You can get involved here.

Install more drinking fountains. Before everyone bought bottled water, we had a drink on the go from public drinking fountains. These were often paid for by local authorities, who might argue that they don’t have the money for such things today. And besides, lots of people might consider them a health risk. Perhaps a modern twist on the idea would be a coin-operated water bottle filling station: like these. There’s a project to make London the first city in the world with no bottled water, and they’ve installed drinking fountains at Selfridges, London Zoo and a variety of other high profile places.

Make them edible. Leftfield as ideas go, I’ve had an eye on this one for a little while in case it came to anything, and it looks like it might. Last week a company doubled its crowdfunding target to go into production with its ‘Ooho’ edible packaging for drinks. It’s a transparent seaweed based film (similar to the one you get with bubble tea if you’ve ever had the good fortune to have tried that) that allows you to ‘eat’ water in a blob. You still need to package the blobs in something, so they’ve also developed an outer skin that can be peeled like an orange. The biggest problem is that it’s a fresh product that won’t have the shelf life of bottled water, so it’s hard to see it displacing that many bottles. But I do look forward to encountering Ooho packaging sometime soon.

Of course, the obvious solution to plastic bottles is for everyone to just carry their own and fill it with tap water at home. But we can all do that already and don’t, so there’s still plenty of room for new ideas.


  1. Take up home brewing. Plastic bottles give a nice “ping” when the gas pressure has built up and are safer than glass ones. The beer will keep for about a year if given the chance.

  2. When you’ve grown up in a state with a bottle deposit, it comes as quite a shock to move to or visit somewhere without one. You just never saw deposit bottles in the trash when I was a child. Other kids or bottle pickers always found them and traded them in for cash!

  3. Reblogged this on Site Title and commented:
    It would be more appropriate if Africans, especially Ghanaians understand damage caused by empty bottles and sachets on the streets. if only the amount of bottled drinks or products is all used and collected for recycle and another set of bottled products are released, there will be a reduction in pollution on the environment.

  4. In South Australia we have refunds for plastic bottles, cardboard milk carton drinks (like cold chocolate milk containers) and aluminium drink cans. The law was implemented in 1977. The refund of .10c is imprinted onto the containers. Drink manufacturers must imprint the .10c refund message. This cost is passed on to consumers. We are happy yo pay. Those consumers who want to recoup their money can. Others donate their drink containers to charities. Homeless people collect the cans. Our verges are clean from this rubbish. (We also pay for plastic bags when shopping – our youth parliament created a law that saw South Australia plastic shopping bad free). Maybe someone can present an innovative, creative academic scholarly paper at the next SALT Festival http://www.saltfestival.com.au/ . “anything is possible”.

    1. That sounds like the kind of model we need here. Plastic bottles and drinks cans everywhere around here, and if they had a value, somebody would pick them up! Thanks for the information.

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