With all of the plastic that’s used on a daily basis comes the need to have it recycled.
Most plastic bottles produced in the United States are made from Polyethylene Terephtalate (PET). In 2005, U.S. manufacturers produced 5.1 billion pounds of PET products, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR). NAPCOR has estimated that if the current rate of production remains the same, then 40 billion pounds of PET waste will be added to landfills within a decade.
To help counteract this growth, some states offer financial incentives to consumers who bring in plastic bottles for recycling. In addition, companies are being encouraged to design bottles in ways that make them more efficient and cheaper to recycle. One of the most interesting ideas to come from this challenge is the collapsible plastic bottle.
BEGINNING OF THE COLLAPSE
In 1985, a patent was filed for a collapsible plastic bottle. According to the patent description, the bottle would be constructed with walls that would look and behave like bellows, allowing them to be squeezed together and collapse upon themselves, thus reducing the overall size of the bottle by at least half.
The technology discussed in this patent has been used over the years; however, it has been limited to products geared mostly toward outdoor enthusiasts and athletes, and for corporate promotional giveaway items.
THE CHALLENGE BEGINS
One of the greatest impacts to the environment could be if major beverage manufacturers would incorporate some form of a collapsible bottle into their product lines.
For example, in early 2010, package designer Andrew Seunghyun Kim went public with a set of design concepts aimed at repackaging 20 oz. Coca-Cola® products. His design is based on the 1985 patent, but features a square package instead of a cylindrical design. Kim’s design results in 66 percent less space being occupied than when the bottle is not collapsed.
While there are many advantages to this particular design, it is more unlikely that reengineering the bottle in a square shape will take off due to reasons that involve engineering problems, distribution challenges and production line changes that could be too costly.
However, other companies, like Plasto Solutions, are working on further developing the idea of collapsible beverage bottles. They are staying with a cylindrical bottle design to lessen the impact on manufacturing process changes for the end user. Their design uses a complex system of ribs instead of bellows and their plastic bottle folds by slightly twisting the bottle’s body. This produces a flat circle of plastic that takes up only 10 percent of the original space.
BENEFITS OF COLLAPSE
The idea of impacting how much space is being occupied in landfills by plastic soda bottles is very appealing to those who are environmentally conscious. By reducing the amount of space that a bottle occupies, more can be placed in collection containers and and thus provide a more cost-effective means of recycling.
Originally published in Headline Discoveries