Shifting to bigger bottles could reduce plastic waste

Monday, 01 March, 2021

Shifting to bigger bottles could reduce plastic waste

New research has found shifting from small to medium-sized plastic bottles could reduce the production of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) waste in the USA.

The US research found that a 20% shift in beverage sales from smaller bottles could result in more than 9000 tonnes of waste being saved annually.

University of South Carolina's Rafael Becerril-Arreola and University of California's Randolph Bucklin weighed 187 differently sized PET bottles sold by the best-selling beverage brands in Minnesota, USA.

This was done to identify which bottles sizes were the most efficient at delivering the highest beverage volume for the lowest packaging weight. To validate their findings, the researchers combined data on sales of different sized PET bottles and the weight of PET waste in Minnesota from 2009 to 2013. The data was used to estimate the effect that changes in the sales of certain PET bottle sizes could have on PET waste.

The authors found medium-sized bottles delivered the highest beverage volume for the lowest packaging weight, compared to small and large-sized bottles. The most efficient bottle capacity was approximately 2265 millilitres. When the proportion of mid-size PET bottles sold was relatively high, the weight of PET waste was lower. By simulating the effects of a 20% shift of sales from small to medium-sized PET bottles, the authors estimate that the amount of PET used could be reduced by 1% each year, leading to a potential reduction of 9052 tonnes of PET waste across the USA per year.

The study suggests the next step towards implementing the findings would be to encourage consumers about the benefits of switching between beverage sizes.

The researchers said bottling companies could print a scale that depicts volume on medium-sized bottles to help consumers regulate their portion sizes of beverages without relying on small bottles.

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