Kenai Refuge Helps Reduce, Reuse and Recycle


By Marcos Anguiano, SCA intern, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Plastic water bottles have been around since the 1940s helping humans transport fresh, clean water. During Roman times, aqueducts were built to provide water to cities, and animal skins were used to transport water from place to place. Clay and woven materials were molded into water carrying devices so the skin would have support and also to be easier to transport. Since then portable water has always been in high demand.

When plastic water bottles were introduced to the public, consumers and manufactures quickly accepted the idea because they were light weight, had low production costs, and were a better choice than glass bottles. Besides wine and beer, almost the entire food industry made the transition over to plastic because it was cheaper to make in large quantities.

Bottled water is advertised as a product that holds pristine water from mountain springs intended for everyone who cannot reach those springs. It is easy to go to the store and stock up with water bottles because they are so inexpensive, but something that is not so transparent is the environmental footprint that was made to get the water bottle there.

Long before we pick up a bottle from the grocery shelf, the plastic needs to be manufactured from petroleum hydrocarbons, the bottles and caps molded from the plastic, and then the bottles filled with “pristine” mountain water before packaging them and transporting them off all over the world. The irony is that it takes three times more water to produce a plastic bottle than it does to fill it!

And while it’s a great idea to produce portable water, what to do with all those plastic bottles? Consider that Americans use 50 billion plastic water bottles annually, but only 1 in 5 bottles are actually recycled. That leaves a LOT of bottles going to the landfill or perhaps ending up as marine debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or on our beaches as sand-like plastic grains.

Student Conservation Association