Life Cycle of a Plastic Bottle Part 2: Transportation

Life Cycle of a Plastic Bottle Part 2: Transportation

published on

January 11, 2016

In the previous article we learned just how much natural resources are used to manufacture plastic water bottles each year. But natural resources such as oil, water and energy used in the manufacturing process is only the tip of the iceberg — a great deal of energy is used in the transportation of both raw materials and the finished bottles throughout the supply chain until these water bottles end up in the hands of thirsty humans.

Let’s take a look at how much transportation goes into producing a bottle of water by examining each step of the process.

Step 1 >> Oil Extraction Process

Firstly, oil that is used as the raw material for plastic bottles is extracted from the earth. This requires wells to be drilled by heavy-duty drilling plant and machinery, and the oil to be pumped to the surface. These drills and pumps require fuel to operate.

Step 2 >> Shipped to Refinery

Once the oil is pumped out from the ground it is transported to a refinery where it is cleaned.

Step 3 >> Shipped to the Plastic Manufacturing Plant

The clean oil is then transported to a plastic factory who use it to make plastic pellets that are initially used to make plastic bottle pre-forms, which are then heated and molded into distinctly shaped plastic bottles. Energy is used throughout each of these processes, as well as for the transportation.

Step 4 >> Shipped to the Bottling Plant

Then the fancy shaped water bottles are transported to a bottling plant to be filled with water.

Step 5 >> Shipped to Distributer or Supplier

The final product is now ready for the market, so it gets loaded onto a truck once again and shipped to the next stage in the supply chain. However, this may not always be the end supplier, it may go to a distributing warehouse first, who then ship off to various suppliers, including your local store.

Step 6 >> Consumer Drives Home with Purchased Water

You then drive to your local store to purchase a bottle of water, then drive back home or to the office with your water.

Step 7 >> Discarded Bottle is Transported to Landfill/Recycling Depot

When you get thirsty you crack open the seal on the plastic water bottle and drink the thirst quenching contents. Once the bottle is empty, you will either discard it in the trash, or if you are more environmentally aware, you may put it in a recycle bin to be recycled. Depending on your action, it is then either transported to a landfill or to a recycling depot.

Step 8 >> Final Disposal Process

If it ends up on a landfill the plastic bottle will be pulverized to save space on the landfill, and then covered with earth by a bulldozer. If the bottle is to be recycled it is then transported to plastic recycling plant where it is melted down into plastic pellets which can then be used to manufacture plastic products.

As you can see, a plastic water bottle is a well-traveled beast. Each leg it travels along the supply chain requires transportation, which is very fuel intensive. Considering that in many cases the manufacturer, supplier and consumer are not in the same area or region — in fact they may not even be the same country or continent — the fuel used to supply a bottle of water to a thirsty human simply does not justify the benefits and relief that bottle of water offers the consumer.

Finally, one needs to consider that during the transportation and shipping, bottled water may be exposed to UV radiation and heat for prolonged periods. This can cause BPA 2 and other hazardous chemicals to leach into the contents -- even BPA-free products pose a risk 3. So that healthy bottle of water may not be so healthy after all -- not for you, or the environment.



  1. The life Cycle
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