Enough fuel for 1 million cars

February 22, 2012

When you do a road trip, it's there. When you're going to the beach, you're sure to take them. When the kids have a game, you always have some on hand. And when you shop, they're on the list to replenish.

Americans consume more than 26 billion gallons of bottled water a year, which is encased in plastic made from the equivalent of 17 million barrels of oil (enough to fuel a million cars for a year).

There are several efforts to reduce the number of plastic bottles going into landfills, from communities that want to ban their use and sale to a local legislator who proposed that the state's 5-cent bottle tax be extended to plastic water and juice bottles.

Of course you recycle all of the empty bottles you can, but what happens to the rest? Until recently, most went into landfills where they will remain for 1,000 years before breaking down. But where some people see trash, others see opportunity.

This is the EcoArk, a building made of recycled plastic bottles.

Those in the construction materials community are experimenting with recycling plastics into buildings that are strong and lightweight. Perhaps if these ideas take off we'll see companies harvesting plastic from the ocean, where a garbage patch the size of Texas is floating in the Pacific.

This local company has experimented with mixing concrete and recycled plastic for building blocks.

And this inventor took things a step further, developing a press that will turn waste plastic into strong, durable building blocks that can be used to make homes and shelters inexpensively.

In Taiwan, where only about 4 percent of plastic bottles are recycled, a company commissioned a building made of plastic bottles and a marvel of recycling called the EcoArk was produced. It is made of 1.5 million bottles.

Not everyone is sold on plastic composite building materials. Despite its strength and longevity, residents and caretakers of New York's iconic Coney Island are squabbling about replacing a portion of their historic boardwalk with a composite that is made of plastic.

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Published: Feb. 22, 2012

Author: Allison O'Leary Murray

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Word Count: 336

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  1. Access denied | www.earth-policy.org used CloudFlare to restrict access
  2. Bottle law: It’s about the money - The Boston Globe
  3. garbage patch the size of Texas
  4. This local company
  5. developing a press that will turn waste plastic into strong, ...
  6. Massive Plastic Bottle Building Unveiled in Taiwan : TreeHugger
  7. replacing a portion of their historic boardwalk with a composite ...