By the Time You Read This Article, Americans Will Throw Out Almost 1 Million Plastic Water Bottles

How many plastic water bottles do Americans use every year?

The number is staggering.

The rate of bottled water consumption in the United States is among the highest in the world, matched only by China, a country with a population four times the size. And according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, a beverage-focused research and consultancy group, the trend isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In fact, our demand for bottled water is only growing.

According to a 2015 report from BMC, bottled water consumption in the United States “reached a historical high of almost 10.9 billion gallons. Per capita consumption also reached a new peak of 34 gallons.”

Break that down by bottle, per person, and all that plastic seems even more daunting. According to a Washington Post report, Americans use 270 bottles per year on average, and by 2017 that number is expected to hit 300.

Less than a bottle per day, you might be thinking. Well, consider this: Based on that 270 stat, Americans collectively toss out roughly 85 billion plastic water bottles every year.

That’s huge. A number so big, it’s practically impossible to actually comprehend. So let’s break it down to make it a little more relatable. How many bottles are we talking about?

That’s:

  • 232 million per day

  • 9.7 million per hour

  • 161,000 per minute

  • 2,695 per second

Or, put another way:

  • By the time you read this article, Americans will use 805,000 plastic water bottles.
  • By the time you get to work (using the average commute of 25 minutes), Americans will use 4 million plastic water bottles.

  • By the time you order Seamless and your dinner arrives, Americans will use 6.4 million plastic water bottles.

  • By the time you watch an episode of House of Cards, Americans will use 8.8 million plastic water bottles. And by the time you binge-watch an entire season? 115 million.

  • And in the time it takes you to fly from San Francisco to New York, Americans will use 50 million plastic water bottles.

Why does this matter? For starters, making plastic water bottles uses a lot of energy. According to the Pacific Institute, bottled water is 2,000 times more energy intensive than tap water. Some estimates say 17 million barrels of oil are used to make bottled water annually. That’s enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for one year. And only a third of those bottles get recycled. The rest sit around in landfills for hundreds of years.

So what can you do to put a dent in this growing pile of plastic?

  1. Buy a reusable water bottle and immediately start cutting your plastic water bottle consumption.

  2. Fill your water bottle up at home or from public water fountains whenever possible.

  3. Take it a step farther and advocate for more public fountains in your town or at work.

  4. Traveling and forgot your water bottle? That’s OK, it happens to all of us. Why not buy a second one and keep it in your carry-on?

  5. We’re a little biased, of course, but use a Soma Carafe or Pitcher to fill your bottle.