Why are Plastic Water Bottles Bad for the Environment?

Just about everyone has heard of what bottle pollution is doing to our waterways. And, plastic bottle waste is now a leading contributor to landfills. What was once considered a miracle container is now the scourge of the beverage industry. But, exactly how and why the world began its dependence on plastic water bottles is partly due to our hesitation about the safety of municipal drinking water.

While the drinking water in the United States is predominantly safe and healthy for consumers, there are many countries where waterborne illnesses caused by viruses, bacteria, and parasites in drinking water are still common. In these cases and others, like when a water pipe bursts, and sometimes after hurricanes, floods, and tornados when boiling water is problematic–bottled water is absolutely necessary.

Then there’s taste. A large portion of those who drink their water from the bottle say that their city drinking water has a bitter taste. Actually, this could be true at times when there is a higher concentration of total dissolved solids or TDS. Water with high concentrations of TDS is called hard water, and it is responsible for not only funny tasting drinking water, but also water that can cause a mineral buildup in pipes, prevent clothes and dishes from getting as clean, and can raise the cost of heating water.

But, despite all these reasons for using plastic, still, plastic bottle waste is a huge problem now and will be a global water and land disaster in the future. Not unless everyone knows the answer to the question–why are plastic water bottles bad for the environment? And then, choose to do something about it.

What is single-use plastic?

Why are plastic water bottles bad for the environment? Let's begin with a discussion about where plastic bottles come from and why they are so popular. Single-use plastic packaging includes plastic bottles, wrappers, straws, and bags that are discarded after the product has been used or consumed. This use of plastic was at first thought to be an environmental success. Why? Because paper and glass were once the leading packaging materials.

top global plastic polluters

But, both paper and glass have their drawbacks when it comes to using them to supply the vast amount of consumer goods we use. Glass containers are more expensive and much more energy-intensive to make. And, due to the weight and bulk, they cost more to ship and would result in an appreciable water bottle price hike for the public.

And, while it is possible to use treated papers and paper boards to make water bottles, this would put an overwhelming burden on our already dwindling tree population which would contribute to the negative effects of climate change. These are the main reasons why plastic is the most popular choice (also, because it is easy to carry and quick to dispose of) and the most cost-effective choice.

The lifecycle of a water bottle

Plastic bottles are very inexpensive to make. It starts with the polymerization process that mixes oil, ethylene, propylene and other materials depending on the type of plastic being made. The plastic resin is cooled and formed into plastic granules or pellets - the raw material for making water bottles.

The plastic pellets are remelted and molded into the shape of a bottle, cooled and bulk packaged, then sold to beverage manufacturers across the world. Once the bottled water is processed, sold, and consumed, the plastic container is typically tossed into a garbage can and sent to a landfill. Many plastic bottles are littered, ending up in drains, waterways, and natural animal habitats.

What bottle pollution really costs? It doesn't matter where the plastic bottle ends up, it will now take over 450 years for that plastic bottle to decompose back into its chemical constituents which are toxic to soil, water, animals, and humans.

Environmental impact of plastic water bottles

After discovering where plastic bottles come from and how long they will be around after being discarded, most consumers desire a more eco-friendly alternative. After all, it takes almost 2,000 times the energy to manufacture a bottle of water than it does to produce tap water. Still, we are hesitant to completely stop using plastic water bottles, despite the environmental impacts.

understand microplastics in bottled water

Our landfills are overflowing with plastic water bottles, some of which can take 1000 years to decompose. The life cycle of plastic bottles starts with a drain on the environment because of the fossil fuels and petroleum used during manufacturing that contribute to global warming. But, worst of all, plastic bottles that end up as litter often end up in waterways where the chemicals slowly leach into the ecosystem.

Toxic plastic particles eaten by fish and other animals or plastic chemicals that are redistributed into the soil by watering crops can end up in the foods we eat. While most people don't realize the long term effects of plastic microparticles on the human genome yet, most researchers agree that plastics will have a negative effect on human biology.

How can you help?

According to the Water Project, U.S. landfills are overflowing with 2 million tons of discarded plastic water bottles alone. Living green as much as possible is a good lifestyle to aspire to, especially since there are so many reasons to stop using plastic bottles. Adopting an earth-friendly lifestyle can include the wearing of sustainable fashion, like the vegan shoes manufactured by Rothy’s. This company is reducing their use of plastic in shoes by substituting a wide array of natural and/or non-toxic materials.

Here are some more ways you can help reduce the use of disposable plastic water bottles.

Reduce plastic use

To help offset the negative environmental effects of plastic bottles, consumers can first reduce or eliminate their use of single-use plastic water bottles. Instead, consider 5-gallon bottles filled with purified water dispensers at your local grocery store. This would eliminate the use of plastic water bottles in the home.

Use refillable water bottles

Since so many people enjoy the convenience of carrying freshwater wherever they go, investing in lightweight or glass refillable water bottles is another good solution. Not only are you minimizing waste, but you are also avoiding some of the harmful chemicals that may be leached from single-use plastic bottles.

Rothy’s finds another use for single-use plastic bottles

Invest in a home water filtration system

If you don't like the taste of municipal drinking water, consider a faucet, under-the-sink, or whole house water purification system. Some water filtering systems can be custom fit with the right types of filters or other mechanism to reduce the specific type of chemicals found in the drinking water in your particular area.

Since any of these methods would greatly reduce our reliance on bottled water, it is likely the consumer has gotten so used to the easy to carry, easy to use, and easy to dispose of plastic water bottles that the only thing holding us back is habit.


Plastic water bottle containers are made to be recycled - including the caps. Make it a family, workplace, and community goal to recycle instead of discarding all water bottles used. Those recycled materials can go into making new bottles or other products, which help reduce waste in manufacturing.

Rothy’s focus on the environment

Rothy’s is dedicated to sustainability and the environment in its selection of materials, manufacturing processes, and their reuse of scrap production material. The company has diverted plastic bottles from landfills and used the recycled material to create their signature thread. The durable knit weave makes for a washable sneaker that is extremely comfortable and durable. This is just one component of Rothy's mission for sustainable manufacturing.

The company also helps keep waste out of our oceans by intercepting marine plastic within 30 miles of coastlines, then uses that marine plastic as thread to make sustainable bags and accessories. Additionally, by the end of 2022, Rothy’s factory will be LEED- and TRUE-certified, validating that it's operating with green building practices and has achieved zero waste according to TRUE’s requirements.

Visit Rothy's online or in store to discover more about their goals toward zero-waste and sustainable manufacturing with material substitutions that include vegan leather, natural rubber, merino wool, hemp fibers, and more. Rothy’s proves that quality and sustainable manufacturing can exist side by side.