Water and plastic

Plastic is an inexpensive, lightweight and durable material, manufactured for its prolonged lifespan, which is why it should be used for as long as possible and be properly disposed of or recycled at the end of its life. However, its low production cost and many possible usages makes it widely used for “disposable” objects, a contradiction that damages the environment as it is a non-biodegradable material.

Since the 1980s, the bottled water market has experienced a strong and continual growth. Due to the combination of water and plastic, this material has progressively replaced glass in the production of containers.

Plastics used in the mineral water bottling process are part of the so-called family of disposable plastics, objects which are responsible for the majority of environmental pollution, especially in seas and other watercourses. Unfortunately, only a small proportion of plastic are correctly assigned to a separate waste collection regime to be recycled or adapted to be used as a solid fuel. The majority unfortunately ends up in general mixed waste as it is no longer reusable since it is not a biodegradable material. It can remain in landfills or other natural environments for centuries. Unfortunately, more serious consequences are induced by plastic that are directly dispersed in the environment through a lack of knowledge of the environmental impact or accidentally.

Global Plastic Recycling


How much plastic is recycled?

A global study published in “Science Advances” [1] reported that of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic that have been manufactured since the 1950s, only 9% has been recycled, 12% was incinerated and a staggering 79% was landfilled or dispersed in the environment.

In the UAE, a typical resident uses an average of 450 plastic water bottles in a single year. In 2011, this was equivalent to 43 gallons of water in average per person making the United Arab Emirates the fourth-highest consumer of bottled water in the world [2]. More recently, according to Dubai Municipality, of the 3.6 million tonnes of domestic waste generated by Dubai in 2017, 30 per cent was plastic waste [3].


From plastic to microplastics

Microplastics originate from plastics that have broken down into smaller pieces. Recent studies highlighted their widespread dispersion and negative effects on marine and freshwater environments, on aquatic life, on biodiversity and on human health. Microplastics can enter the food chain through absorption by animals, plants and water representing a potential danger to humans due to bioaccumulation and toxic effects caused by the release of pollutants.

There are many types of plastics used in the most varied sectors of human activities; those used to produce water containers are PET, PLA, Polycarbonate and Tritan.

  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This plastic of fossil origin (1 kg PET = 2 kg oil) is the most frequently used to produce mineral water bottles and soft drinks bottles. Thanks to its greater ability to resist absorbing gases and other materials it comes in contact with, PET has replaced PVC. However, it has been found that incorrect manufacturing processes and exposure to improper temperature and humidity conditions can trigger phenomena that facilitate the decomposition of polymer [4]. This can allow a possible migration of toxic substances in water, such as acetaldehyde and formaldehyde.
  • Polylactic acid (PLA). It is a vegetable plastic made from corn-starch (1 kg PLA = 2.5 kg corn), therefore of biological origin, which does not contain components of fossil origin (coal or oil). PLA is biodegradable, and, in optimal composting conditions, it can decompose in 8-12 weeks. However, to achieve this, the bottle must be put in the food waste collection, instead of the cap which goes in the plastic recycling system.
  • Polycarbonate (PC). It is the plastic that is mostly used in bottles for water coolers; being particularly resilient, it lends itself to reuse. After use, bottles are sent back at the plant where they are washed, sterilized and then filled again. The PC, however, presents the problem of potential release of Bisphenol A, a toxic substance (endocrine disruptor) that also appears in the list of emerging pollutants covered by the new European Directive on drinking water.
  • Tritan. It is the commercial name of an innovative polymer that has characteristics similar to the traditional polycarbonate but with numerous advantages, such as superior thermal resistance and absence of Bisphenol A.




Eliminate plastic water bottles

Contributing and committing to a sustainable environment management policy is a duty and a must. It may be a challenge, however, it can be overcome through common commitment of individuals and businesses alike who can change with their choices and actions.

Replacing bottled water in favour of tap water is one of the simplest and most effective action that each of us can do; a choice also facilitated by modern microfiltration systems with which it is possible to improve the quality of the water coming from the municipal supply, making it better for the environment and allowing savings for business, households and industries.

With Culligan drinking water solutions you can achieve a water of excellent quality, microbiologically pure, at ZERO km, still or sparkling, cold, hot or at room temperature directly from the tap. If you want to know more about Culligan’s water treatment systems for businesses, households and industries, contact us today.


[1] “Production, use, and make of all plastics ever made” Geyer, Jambeck, Law -Sci. Adv.2017; 3: e1700782
[2] Pandey, P. (2016, April 21). Retrieved January 20, 2019, from EcoMENA: https://www.ecomena.org/plastic-uae/
[3] Saseendran, S. (2018, April 8). Retrieved January 20, 2019, from Gulf News UAE: https://gulfnews.com/uae/environment/pledge-against-plastic-its-time-we-fight-back-1.2201085
[4] “Materials intended for contact with food” P.Calà, A.Sciullo – Chiriotti Editore, 2006


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