How frequently do you reach for bottled water? This exhibit explores the effect bottled water and its plastic containers have on our environment. In 1976, the average American consumed around 1.6 gallons of bottled water per year. That number increased dramatically to 28.3 gallons per year in 2006. Americans today use roughly 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour or approximately 22 billion per year. Unfortunately, only around 24% of these bottles are recycled annually.
The case also explores the positive counter effect of recycling. Around 80% of the American population has access to recycling programs–individual household curbside containers, public recycling containers at parks and schools, or recycling centers. Recycling old plastic bottles to make new ones uses roughly 67% less energy than manufacturing bottles from raw materials. In addition, not only does recycling reduce energy use and landfill space, but it conserves natural gas, a major component of plastic bottles.