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The Life of a Plastic Water Bottle

By Peter S. Green - 2012-10-02T21:18:26Z

Photograph by Paul Taylor

Company Symbol % Change
Exxon Mobil Corp XOM:US -0.79
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A Journey Begins

Bottled water -- clean, portable and good for you -- is the drink of choice for health-conscious consumers who balk at sugary sodas and juices.

Yet the plastic containers the water comes in accumulate each year in such volume that they litter beaches, foul seas and carpet landfills. Some cities and universities are banning them.

The U.S. alone accounts for 5.35 billion pounds of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic a year, less than a third of which is recycled, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources, an industry group. The world's track record is even worse, with an average recovery rate of 10 percent.

Click ahead to view the life and afterlife of the everyday water bottle.

Read more energy & sustainability news.

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