a bottle (plural bottles) is a cylindrical container, usually made of glass or another material that can hold liquids, foodstuffs or other articles. Bottles may be transparent or opaque and can be made with a wide variety of shapes, sizes and finishes. Bottles are commonly used to store beverages, although they are also widely employed as containers for food, condiments, cosmetics and various other products.
A bottle can be of any shape or size, but is most often narrow-necked and cylindrical in form. A wide variety of materials are used to manufacture bottles, including glass, plastics, and metals. Bottles may be made by blowing, extrusion blowing, injection molding, or a combination of these methods. A label may be attached with adhesive, or the product name and other information can be built into the bottle using a process called in-mould labelling.
Many countries have laws that regulate the production of bottles, as well as their packaging. Depending on the law, the labeling requirements for a particular type of bottle can be quite stringent. The laws also vary widely from country to country, requiring labels in a range of languages in some jurisdictions and no labels at all in others.
The vast majority of bottles sold in the developed world are plastic. The most common of these is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), with the resin identification code 1. PET is an extremely versatile plastic, able to be made into a wide variety of shapes and sizes. It is durable, shatter-resistant and has good gas barrier properties. In addition to these physical characteristics, PET is also low-cost and easy to recycle.
Most plastic bottles are thrown away after their one-use, and in regions with poor waste management or a lack of recycling facilities, these bottles can be carried by wind or storm water to sewers, rivers, lakes and oceans, where they are then broken down into microplastics that can enter marine life. However, bottles destined for recycling are unlikely to end up in the ocean in their current form, unless they have been mismanaged or lost in transit to a processing facility.
Chemical and materials companies are working on biobased alternatives to petroleum-based plastics, such as polyethylene furanoate (PF), which is being used in some prototype beverage bottles. PF is a biodegradable plastic, but it does not have the same high-performance attributes of PET and so would need to be redesigned to replace it in current bottle production processes. However, even if the technology to make a better-performing, more sustainable version of PET is successful, it is likely to be several years before that happens. This will allow the market time to grow, giving the new technology an opportunity to gain a foothold before it is disrupted by cheaper and easier-to-make petroleum-based alternatives. In the meantime, we need to encourage our governments and businesses to support legislation to reduce the use of disposable plastics. And we need to educate ourselves on the true environmental costs of single-use plastics, so that we can avoid them whenever possible.