is the substance of infinite shapes, of infinite uses, of infinite
possibilities, but also of infinite time. There are 5 major stages involved in
the life-cycle of the plastic bottler; raw material extraction, manufacturing,
transportation and distribution, product use and disposal and recycling.
raw materials after when they are extracted go to a manufacturer which then
takes everything and makes them into plastic pellets. These pellets are shrunk
using heat and pressure and they reshape those pieces of plastics to a stable
sheer magnitude of plastic bottle production and its growth rate, contrasted by
a worrying inability to dispose of it efficiently, has experts raising the
alarm. Despite the growing span of knowledge regarding this biohazard, the
world can’t seem to stop demanding it. Growing dependency on the product by
populations is raising concern about the future of the world’s ecosystems and
the health of emerging economies. There is no other material that has
transcends all nations, all modern economies, and all social classes
notwithstanding their wealth or way of life in the same manner as plastic has
done is continuing to do.
third Chapter of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)
Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (United Nations, 2002) included a call for,
“…the development of a 10 year framework of programmes in support of regional
and national initiatives to accelerate the shift towards sustainable
consumption and production patterns that will promote social and economic
development within the carrying capacity of ecosystems…”
the use of plastic bottles has become a common commodity used by man. The plastic
bottle is usually used to hold liquids with the holding and storage of drinking
water being the most dominant. Other uses of the plastic bottle includes:
storage of beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), for holding medicines,
motor oil, shampoos, cooking oil etc. it is estimated that the average American
uses 167 plastic bottles annually.
and Ghana have also had its share of the increase in the demand and usage of
the plastic bottle. In Ghana the use of plastic bottle was not common until the
early 2000’s and the use of plastic bottle is always associated with affluence
by the general public.
the purpose of this paper, plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate
(PET) will be considered. PET’s are blended with thermoplastic polymer which
can be either opaque or transparent, conditional on the raw material
composition. Most PET used in the production of plastic bottles are produced
from petroleum hydrocarbons, which is as a result of a reaction between
ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid (https://www.thomasnet.com).
history about plastic bottles
a plastic bottle can be defined as a bottle constructed or made from plastic.
first for of natural plastic was in invented during the renaissance period by
Leonardo Da Vinci. The plastic which was created by Da Vinci was made from both
animal and vegetable glues combined with organic fibers materials. This mixture
was then used to coat the leaves of cabbage and papers. When this combination
dried Da Vinci was left with a product that would be described today as a plastic
like substance. (Rossella, 2004).
1862, Alexander Parkes was responsible for introducing the first man made
plastic at the Great International Exhibition in London. This man made plastic
was nicknamed Parkesine. Parkesine was an organic cellulose material that once
heated, could be strategically molded into certain shapes and would keep shape
when it was cooled. Unfortunately, Parkesine’s life span lasted only a short
period of time due to an extremely expensive production cost of raw materials.
Next was the development of the
celluloid which was produced from a mixture of shredded tissue paper, sulfic
acid and ntric acid to develop the first thermoplastic and this was developed
by John Wasley Hyatt. Celluloid is still used in modern day to make
Baekland may possibly be responsible for what is to be considered one of the
greatest inventions of the 20th century. In 1907 Leo Baekland was trying to
find a more efficient insulator for electrical energy, which was at that time
becoming more expensive as the demand grew and the supply shrunk. After years
of hard work Leo Baekland invented “Balelite”. Baekland then combined
one of his earlier inventions, the “bakelizer” (a heavy iron vessel
that was part pressure cooker and part basement boiler) with the
“Balelite” which allowed him to precisely control heat and pressure,
therefore allowing him to also control the reactions of chemicals. With the
help of this new invention Baekland was able to form a resin which when hardened,
would keep the shape of the mold, wouldn’t burn, boil, melt, or dissolve when
touched with any common acid or solvent (American Plastics Council, 2005). All
of these inventions led to the discovery of different type/categories of
plastic such as polyvinyl chloride, polyvinylidence chloride, Teflon,
low-density polyethylene, etc. Polyvinyl Chloride is the type of plastic that
is mostly found in vegetable oil bottles as well as food wraps; PET is
primarily used in water containers, beverage (soft drinks) and food containers.
Plastic bottles for the holding of drinking water and soft drinks were first
seen in America in 1970, though the first bottled soda water in America was
created in 1835, and the first PET bottle was made three years later after the
water and soft drink bottle in 1977.
bottles were first used commercially in 1947 but remained relatively expensive
until the early 1960s when high-density polyethylene was introduced. They
quickly became popular with both manufacturers and customers due to their
lightweight nature and relatively low production and transportation costs
compared with glass bottles. However, the biggest advantage plastic bottles
over glass is their superior
resistance to breakage, in both production and transportation. Except for wine
and beer, the food industry has almost completely replaced glass bottles with
Cycle Assessment (LCA) could also be defined as a systematic set of procedures
for compiling and examining the inputs and outputs of materials and energy and
the associated environmental impacts directly attributable to the functioning
of a product or service system throughout its life cycle (ISO, 2014). The
plastic bottle evolves through several stages of its life starting from raw
material extraction and ending at either Disposal or recycling.
has its roots in the 1960s, when scientists concerned about the rapid depletion
of fossil fuels. A few years later, global-modeling studies predicted the
effects of the world’s changing population on the demand for finite raw
materials and energy resource supplies (Franklin Associates, 1991). The
predictions of rapid depletion of fossil fuels and resulting climatological
changes sparked interest in performing more detailed energy calculations on
1969, the Midwest Research Institute (and later, Franklin Associates) initiated
a study of the Coca-Cola Company to determine which type of beverage container
had the lowest releases to the environment and made the fewest demands for raw
materials and energy (Franklin Associates, 1991). This was the first ever
lifecycle analysis that was made on a plastic bottle.
this academic paper, the LCA of the plastic container will undergo five (5)
1: Extraction of raw materials- this phase includes all processes involved in
the extraction of the resources from the earth. This will included drilling,
refining, cracking, Polymerization etc.
2: Manufacturing- this involves in all the processes that the extracted raw
materials go through to the point that it has been fabricated to the bottle as
we see such as Polymerization and molding.
Phase 3: Transportation and
distribution- This phase involves the transportation and distribution of the
finished or manufactured bottle to the industry that will make use of it.
4 Product use- this is the phase where the product (plastic bottle) is
purchased and used buy the final consumer.
5: end of life- this is the stage where the container is either disposed or
There is a special interaction which links one phase to the other and
in-between these spaces, a lot of things take place involving the utilization
of energy and movement. This interaction mostly have CO2 as a by-product.
of this paper
There are several broad areas
that can be considered when the life cycle of the plastic container is being
assessed but this paper will focus on the following areas. This paper will only
focus on plastic bottles made from extracted crude oil and natural gas. Due to
environmental concerns, some manufacturing companies use bio-plastics. These
plastic are made from plant materials processed from polymers, and they are
thought to be environmentally friendly since they do not require extraction.
Additionally they are biodegradable and have a short life expectancy making
them unfit for long-term storage. Despite these various sources, most
artificial polymers today are made from petroleum.
the paper will only consider the PET plastic bottles. These bottle are the
bottles that are used for either water or soft minerals. The study will not
consider plastic made from other resins.
paper will not also consider capping and branding of the bottle.
is drilled worldwide due to its multiple purposes needed. In order to make
plastic, oil is drilled to mold the plastic container. Majority of the oil is
made from PET.
birth of a plastic bottle begins when crude oil and natural gas are extracted
from the environment. There are two steps in the drilling of oil. Because the
drilling operations are the only ones capable of certifying that oil is present
in the target location, teams of scientists are first sent to perform lengthy
analysis of the geological structures surrounding the location. The extraction
process can start once the scientists have given their assent. Next, several
wells are drilled, creating optimal networking for the reservoir. The crude oil
is then extracted using water or gas pressure systems. At the well’s surface,
specialized machinery separates liquids and gases. Petroleum has been
classified into two groups: ‘conventional’ oil that is liquid and easy to pump;
‘unconventional’ oil, such as shale oil or extra heavy oil, which are extracted
using more sophisticated methods.
Once the oil has been prospected,
targeted, and extracted from the newly-dug well by huge pumping stations, the
crude oil is transported via a pipeline to an oil refinery. It is then heated
up to hundreds of degrees, sent up a fractional distillation column, a tower
that separates the oil’s thousands of components using condensation or
boiling-point techniques (the higher the boiling point, the lower up the column
the component stays). Several distinct oils are thus obtained at the end of distillation
process, such as fuel (for heating), diesel fuel, kerosene, and naphtha, the
primary component for plastic making which condenses between 180°C and 40°C. It
is also used to make colorants, fertilizers, cosmetics, perfume,
pharmaceuticals, and various household products.
is the cracking stage. The collected naphtha needs to undergo an important
transformation step before being used by the plastics engineers. Cracking is
the fragmentation of naphtha’s big hydrocarbon molecules into smaller, and thus
more easily processed, sections. First, the crude oil is mixed with water
vapour. The mélange is then heated to 800°C, then very quickly cooled down to
400°C. The tiny molecules obtained (molecules with 2 to 7 carbon atoms called
monomers) will be used to make chains called polymers, plastic’s basic building
gas can also be transformed to ethylene which is used to create polymer solids.
Natural gas is obtained by roughly the same methods of extraction and cracking
as crude oil (sometimes on the same site), but the plastic industry uses it for
its potentially high ethane content, a gas that, once it has been condensed at
below 100°C, is another raw material for plastic making. When heated to 850°C,
ethane molecules separate and create a hydrogen and ethylene mix. Only the
purified ethylene is then used to create the future polymer solids, also called
polyethylene. It can be noted that, to create 1 ton of plastic material, 1.25
tons of ethane are needed, and the chemical industry annually produces a little
over 130 000 tons of ethylene.
The first stage in bottle
manufacturing is polymerization. In polymer chemistry, polymerization is a
process of reacting monomer molecules together in a chemical reaction to form polymer
chains or three-dimensional networks (Young 1987, IUPAC 2000, Clayden et al
already stated above, PET is made from petroleum hydrocarbon which is the main
ingredient used in the manufacture of most plastic bottles. PET is made by
mixing hydrocarbons with chemical catalysts, triggering polymerization. Tests
are then carried out to confirm whether PET is glossy, thick, or is permeable
to carbon dioxide. The PET mixture is heated and placed in molds via a process
called molding. Usually, the type of the mixture is dependent on the kind of
the plastic to be made. Some plastic are harder while others are softer. This
usually take place in a manufacturing company.
next stage of the manufacturing process is molding. There are several common
molding methods for plastic containers (Extrusion Blow Molding (EBM), Injection
Blow Molding (IBM), Stretch Blow Molding (SBM)) however the method mostly used
in the manufacturing of PET plastic bottles in the injection blow molding.
this stage of the manufacturing process, the PET which has been refined is
heated (seen in the figure above) and placed in a mold, the tube of PET is then
transferred into a second, bottle-shaped mold. A thin mandrel steel rod is slid
inside the prison where it fills the parison with highly pressurized air.it is
important to note that the parison is air tight; Once the rod is inside the
parison then stretch blow molding begins and because of the pressurized air,
heat and pressure, the parison is blown and stretched into the mold therefore
making it to assuming a bottle shape. To ensure that the bottom of the bottle
retains a steadily flat shape as it is always seen, an unconnected component of
simultaneously joined to the
bottle during blow molding to prevent the bottom of the bottle from deforming
to an unwanted shape. This process is illustrated in the diagram above.
mold must be cooled very quickly, this is to enable the newly formed component
to be set properly. There are several cooling methods, which can be both direct
and indirect but can effectively cool the mold and the plastic. Water can be
streamed through pipes surrounding the mold and this will lead to the indirect
cooling of the mold and plastic. Direct methods include using pressurized air
or carbon dioxide directly on the mold and plastic.
the bottle has been cooled and set, it is ready to be removed from the mold. If
a continuous molding process has been used, the bottles will need to be
separated by trimming the plastic in between them. If a non-continuous process
has been used, sometimes excess plastic can seep through the mold during
manufacturing and will require trimming. After removing the bottle from the
mold and removing excess plastic, the bottles are ready for transportation.
manufacturing the bottles are disinfected and packed, ready for transportation.
It is important to note that transportation exist throughout the lifecycle of
the plastic bottle such as transportation from the wells to the refineries
through pipe as well as conveyor belt movement at the manufacturing stage. The
plastic bottle literally moves from birth to its disposal and recycling. At
this stage the interest is the movement of the formed bottles from the
manufacturing house to where they will be used to hold or store what they were
made for. Mostly this usually involves packaging them either boxes or rubber
sacks and moved first in trucks. These trucks can either distribute to the
using company directly or through other modes of transports. The transportation
can take place in the following forms
– using Company
– Truck – using company
– Plane – Truck – using company
Truck – Plane – Truck – Train –
Truck – using company
– Train – Truck – using company
– ship – truck – using company
flow above is not exhaustive, meaning that it can be in any form and this flow
is determined by the manufacturing company and the using company.
these bottles arrive at the using company, they go through another
sterilization process and then they are filled with water, soft drink, cooking
oil etc. (PET). Also it is at this stage that the bottle gets its branding and
capping. The brand and the capping is determined by the using company. After
filling, capping and branding, the bottle is transport in a form such as the
forms stated above just that this time it ends up in the market where is will
be consumed finally.
the product is said to be used when it is used to store or hold what it was
made to hold or keep but that can be said to be a transit point in the
transportation process. The product is said have been used after it has been
purchased in the market and its content is utilized. The bottles of water, soft
drinks etc. are sold through vendors are then consumed.
being drained (content consumed), the vast majority of these plastic bottles
become trash and end up in dumpsters, landfills, gutters, rivers and water
bodies or end up in the ocean wreaking havoc on ocean ecosystems. The remaining
bottles end up in being recycled for reuse or recycled and used to manufacture
other plastic substances.
the plastic bottle is used to hold water (bottled water) that bottle will last
not more than 3 months that is 30 days from filling and usage. And also if it
is used for a soft drink like coca cola, then it will last not more than 18
months from filling to content consumption. This means that the product
(plastic bottle) realistically does not last beyond 24 months before it finds
its way to destruction (bins).
Dumping and Recycling
million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number
will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some
campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change. Ideally, all used
plastic bottles should end up in a recycler. But this is not usually the case
and that is the major concern with the use of plastic bottles.
is a 100% recyclable material that replaced PVC in the 1990’s. PET is a lighter
component than PVC: the weight of plastic water bottles was reduced by 1/3 by
using PET. PET is recycled into new products or materials, such as clothing,
carpet, industrial products and, of course, new plastic bottles. Plastic
bottles go through the recycling process to then be reused for new products.
PET is first cut into little pieces and then it is cleaned. It is transformed
into little balls that are later used to manufacture new products.
the transforms balls are to be used in making plastic bottle then the cycle
continue but this time starts at Manufacturing since there will be no need for
raw materials to be extracted.
that in mind, it is easy to forget that plastics will be around for a longer
time than it takes to buy, drink, and throw them. Although recycling is an
excellent way to reduce environmental pollution, use of bio-plastics can help
save our environment.
plastic waste just like all substances can be biologically degraded, the
problem is the time involved in this process. Though it may take a year to go
through all the life cycle process, it will take thousands of years for a
single plastic bottle to be biodegraded.
use of the plastic bottle has become a necessity in modern day communities,
however the growing use of this product comes with a lot of environmental
impacts throughout all stages of the life-cycle. The
major life-cycle stages of this
product as discussed above are five but there are several intermediate linkages
that exist. It is also worth noting that this cycle is continues thus once the
crude is extracted from the oil fields and is used to make PET, the product
like any other matter does not leave the earth surface but keep changing from
one form to another.
the importance of the plastic bottle to modern civilization cannot be
overlooked it is important that in every stage of life of the bottle, the
welfare of the environment be taken into account else the product will end up
destroying the very environment which it came from as well as the general
wellbeing of the vary people it is to manufactured for.
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Invented Natural Plastics”, Discovery News, 4 Feb.2004 ed. 2005, American
Plastics Council “The History of Plastic”, http://www.americanplasticscouncil.org
14040.2 Draft: Life Cycle Assessment – Principles and Guidelines
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Organic chemistry, Oxford University Press ISBN 0198503466 pp. 1450–1466
Energy and Information and Administration
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Environment Agency 2013;
Kanton, Abdul-Kadri, 2013
1987, IUPAC 2000, Clayden et al 2000