A History of the Plastic Bottle

by 4ocean Team January 25, 2019

A History of the Plastic Bottle

 

At any given time, the plastic bottle is one of the top three pieces of trash found in the ocean. Plastic water bottles are easy to throw in the cooler and can be taken almost anywhere to rehydrate even on the hottest of days. Plastic sunscreen bottles get stashed in the side pocket of the beach bag to keep us from looking like a Maine lobster. 

 

Top Ten Trash Items Found in the Ocean
Source: Ocean Conservancy

 

But when they are empty, if you don't make sure they find their way into the recycle bin, they may end up sailing the high-seas for decades. Much like this bottle did in the UK for at least 47 years. You can see on the side "4D Off" or "4 Pence Off." This means it was sold before the UK changed over to decimal currencyin 1971. Without a doubt, there are others out there that are probably older than this one. So, let's take a look at the genesis of the plastic bottle and see how we got to where we are today.  

 

Old Plastic Bottle - @burnhamcoastguard Source: @burnhamcoastguard

 

You have to go all the way back to the early 1600s to find the first bottled water. Monks would take their bottles up to the UK's Holywell Spring and bring the water to the sick at the monastery. It wasn't until later, in the 1700s, that bottled water became fashionable in Europe and the United States. Some of the "mineral" waters were thought to have "healing" properties and started showing up in pharmacies and drug stores in the early 1900s. In all cases, the bottles were made of glass. 

 

Old Glass Water Bottles

 

It took another fifty years or so for the first PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic to be produced and patented in 1973. Just five years later in 1978, it was a "bottle war" between Coca-Cola and Pepsi that introduced the plastic bottle to the masses around the world. Little did they know that "bottle war" would still be raging today, only in a much different theater.

At the time, this was a profound step forward. The companies that produced and used these plastic bottles were able to make them cheaply in mass quantities, hence increasing their profits, and were also able to pass the responsibility of recycling them on to the consumer, another cost savings. Now, here we are with hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic water bottles floating around on or laying at the bottom of the ocean. 

And one more, even deeper concept to think about. Approximately one-third of a plastic bottle is made out of oil. So, in theory, one might be able to call this release of plastic into the environment the longest and biggest non-accidental oil spill of all time. Who should pay for all that cleanup?

 

Fish in Plastic Bottle

 

Well, at 4ocean, we are not waiting for the answer to that question! We're already mobilizing to remove plastic bottles and other marine debris from the ocean and coastlines on a global scale. We have headquarters in the US, Bali, and the Caribbean where we have removed over three millions pounds of plastic and trash in just two short years! The 4ocean Ocean Plastic Recovery campaign is poised to target high-impact areas, like river mouths, to collect plastic and trash before it ever has a chance to reach the open ocean. 

Millions of people are hearing and seeing our message through social and traditional media and joining the 4ocean Clean Ocean Movement in droves. Our community of passionate ocean warriors is growing faster than we ever could have imagined and we want to continue to spread the word, educate and make people aware that the things they do every single day have consequences for the entire world. One easy thing that you can do to reduce your plastic bottle consumption is to get a 4ocean Reusable Bottle, which can help prevent an average of 156 plastic bottles from entering the ocean each year. You can also join us at a 4ocean Event to pull even more pounds.  

Make sure you follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up on all things 4ocean. Also, make sure to join the conversation on our new Discover 4ocean Facebook Group. We have some really amazing things lined up for this year so make sure to check back often!

 

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