Most plastic water bottles are recyclable, and yet most of them are never recycled and end up in the garbage. According to the Container Recycling Institute, consumers recycle only one of every five plastic drink bottles used. Though recycling facilities aren't available everywhere, it's important to try to recycle as many water bottles as possible. Not doing so can have disastrous consequences for our land, water and wildlife.
Throwing away plastic bottles, instead of recycling them, means the bottles end up in landfills, many of which are already overcrowded and take up space that could be used for other purposes. Conventional plastic does not biodegrade, so the bottles sit in landfills indefinitely. Landfill waste contributes to the production of methane, and too much methane in the atmosphere leads to the greenhouse effect, which is linked to global warming.
It's tempting to reuse a water bottle several times before throwing it out, but invisible scratches and cracks in the flimsy plastic can cause harmful chemicals from the plastic to leach into your drink. It's better to recycle the bottle after the first use. If you do choose to reuse water bottles, make sure to wash and sanitize them thoroughly; not doing so can make them a breeding ground for bacteria that could make you sick.
When water bottles are not recycled, brand-new ones must be made to keep up with consumer demand. According to the Earth Policy Institute, 1.5 million barrels of oil are needed to make enough bottles to meet the U.S.' demand for bottled water. Increasing recycling efforts -- or consuming more tap water and bottled water -- cuts down on the need for raw materials and fossil fuels to make new products.
Trash in coastal cities often ends up in our oceans, and ocean animals are hurt and killed by ingesting small bits of residual plastic. Small ocean life can get stuck in the cap rings of plastic water bottles or in plastic six-pack holders. An animal may mistake a plastic bottle for prey and try to eat it, with disastrous consequences.