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There are more plastic bottles than the world can handle

Staff writers, June 29, 2017 5:50PM News Corp Australia

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Reading level: orange

SHOULD you ever travel to one of the many uninhabited* islands that dot the most remote reaches of Earth’s oceans, chances are you’ll find plastic bottles littering the shore.

Even if there’s nothing else to be found there, civilisation’s obsession with plastic waste is having a profound impact on every corner of the globe. And it’s getting worse.

One million plastic bottles are bought every minute around the globe, fuelled by our insatiable* thirst for bottled water.

Figures obtained by UK based newspaper The Guardian show the annual sale of plastic bottles will soar* to a staggering one trillion by the end of this decade — a 20 per cent increase.

Coffs Harbour June 30th 2015

Marine Science University Student Kelsey Bannister shares the concerns of the greater Marine Science community of the alarming risk to marine life due to the huge numbers of plastic bottles washing up on North Coast New South Wales at beaches such as Wooli Beach.

Please note - This photo taken near the Marine Sciene Centre, Charlesworth Bay Coffs Harbour.

Photo Frank Redward media_cameraCoffs Harbour beach. Picture: Frank Redward

Most of those bottles end up in landfill*, where they take a significant time to break down, or in the ocean where they kill marine life.

A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in January found the equivalent of a garbage truck worth of plastic bottles was being dumped into the ocean every minute.

“(Without change), the ocean is expected to contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).”

Even if recycled, the sheer number of them being produced means conservation efforts are struggling to keep up.

Figures show that 480 billion plastic bottles were produced globally in 2016 and less than half of those were recycled. Of those collected, just seven per cent were reused as drinking bottles.

Bali Rubbish media_cameraMasses of bottles in Bali. Picture: Nathan Edwards

“Although plastic bottles are recyclable, many end up in landfill and take up to 1000 years to break down,” according to Clean Up Australia Day.

“When littered they often end up in the sea where they break up in small pieces, killing marine life that mistake them for food.”

The organisation reports that of all the waste collected by its volunteers, 10 per cent of items are plastic bottles.

“By avoiding bottled water and refilling your own bottle you can help conserve virgin* resources and protect our pristine nature,” it said.

Container Dep Scheme media_cameraPicking up plastic bottles. Picture: Craig Greenhill

While hard to believe, producing one litre of bottled water typically requires three litres of water in the manufacturing and transport.

Experts in the United States say the oil required in meeting the country’s manufacturing demand for bottles is the same as the fuel required to power 1.3 million cars for a year.


Plastic bottles in trash bin with recycle sign. Rubbish. Waste. Elevated view. media_cameraBottles in the right bin. Picture: supplied

1. Carry a metal water or re-usable water bottle with you

2. Take a green bag or calico bag with you when you go grocery shopping to avoid plastic bags

3. Read the label on bottles and put recyclable ones in the right bin

uninhabited: no one lives there
insatiable: never ending
soar: increase greatly

landfill: buried or piled waste
virgin: pristine and untouched



Activity 1. How many?

How many plastic bottles are bought per minute around the globe?

Figure out how many bottles are sold around the world in:

• 45 minutes

• One hour

• Six and a half hours

• A day


How many bottles would be sold around the world each day if everyone reduced of bottles they bought by:

• Half

• A third

• A quarter

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: Mathematics

Activity 2.

After reading the story, list all of the problems that are caused by plastic bottles.
Then think of at least three things that can be done, actions, to solve these problems.

One action must be something our government could do, one action should be something your local community or school can do and one action should be something that you can do.
Write a description of each action and why it would help.


In some countries people are using more bottled water because they may not have clean or safe water to drink.
Find out what has caused this problem in some countries.

Use this information to create a storyboard or script for a TV or radio ad.
The purpose of your ad is to help our community understand why clean or safe drinking water is important and what we can do to keep our water clean and safe.

Time: allow 85 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: Critical and Creative Thinking, Geography, Media Arts


(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers, Punctuation)

The glossary of terms helps you to understand and learn the ambitious vocabulary being used in the article.
Can you use the words outlined in the glossary to create new sentences? Challenge yourself to include other VCOP elements in your sentence/s.

Have another look through the article, can you find any other Wow Words not outlined in the glossary?

Extension: Can you up-level the article and add in any other Wow words?

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: English, Big Write, VCOP







Extra Reading in environment