Plastic bottles by the trillion: Stark message in a water bottle

Every now and then, a phrase or a piece of data has an impact that far outweighs its immediate import.

A statistic, a sliver of information that, by itself, means only so much can show how very self-destructive we can be or how very little we seem to learn from the excesses of the past.

The sobering warning — “the last generation to eat wild fish from the sea are already alive” — is one.

It conveys a stark message but we look away from pillage-and-plunder super trawlers as if cod and hake can look after themselves in a world where commercial fishing fleets can have better sonar equipment than many national navies.

Figures released this week showing a million plastic bottles are made every minute and that the number will jump by 20% in four years seems another such moment.

Some campaigners believe this rate of production will trigger an environmental crisis as serious as climate change. More than half a trillion plastic bottles will be sold annually by the end of the decade.

Today’s demand, equivalent to about 20,000 bottles being bought every second, is a consequence of an insatiable thirst for bottled water — a victory for marketing over sanity.

In the face of such grand lunacy, it is hard to know what an individual can do but it gives credibility to the chilling assertion by Professor Stephen Hawking that we must, within 100 years, evacuate Earth and colonise space if we are to have any hope of survival.

A heavy price for a bottle of water.


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