Closing the PET loop: re-cycling water bottles

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Call it collective, tacit guilt but every consumer who quaffs their daily ‘branded’ water knows that the plastic (PET) bottle is, generally, on a one-way trip to a landfill site. Our appetite (or is it gullibility?) for bottled drinking water is rising globally. Bottle-to-bottle recycling is a regular activity in the United States but has been slow to take off in the European Union, although that’s set to change as de-polymerisation plants are being introduced. Approximately seventy percent post-consumer PET waste (that includes your bottles) ends up being shredded and recycled as PET fibres for textiles and padding. An unseen multiple waste stream from the bottled water market is the shrink wrapped packs with a cardboard tray used for distributing bottles to the retailers. A German company, Franz Delbrouck GmbH of Bieberkamp thinks the LighTray, made entirely of recycled PET, will ensure the distribution and retail packaging can be disposed of in one waste stream. A neat solution but that still leaves the user holding… the bottle. Enter Nicolas le Moigne's imaginative re-use…

Elegance, wit, economy, practicality and fun are suitable descriptors for le Moigne's 'watering can', winner of the recent Designboom Re-think Re-cycle competition, the MACEF Design Award 2005. His design tackles the throwaway culture of PET water-bottles by creating a screw-on handle-come-spout that brings fresh life and purpose to a discarded bottle. Cleverly he also encourages us to grow plants! A deserved winner from 2418 entrants representing 82 countries. The five categories - Decontextualising, Re-use/modified, Re-cycle process, Tools to re-cycle, Save resources - were subject to the gaze of, amongst others, architect and designer Gaetano Pesce and photographer Oliviero Toscani (of Benetton fame).

Improving distribution packaging, increasing recycling volumes and finding imaginative after-lives for PET bottles all help towards closing the (PET)loop. An alternative strategy is to drink from public fountains, office water dispensers or staight from the tap!
[© Alastair Fuad-Luke, 2005.]