What Is a Bottle?


Bottle – A glass container for a beverage or other liquid or solid substance. Bottles come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and finishes. Bottles are used to store liquids like water, milk, beer and soda. Bottles are also used for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and household chemicals. Bottles are made of many types of materials including glass, metal, plastic and paper. Bottles can be curved or straight and flat or rounded or square or rectangular and can be opaque, translucent or transparent. Bottles can have a screw cap, cork or other closure. Bottles can be hand blown, machine made or made by a process called blowing in the mold. Bottles can be made from any type of glass – flint, soda, crystal or even rock salt – but the vast majority are made of clear glass.

In the US, about 54 percent of all bottles are recycled (Source: National Association for Bottled Water). But what happens to those bottles after they’re discarded? Bottles that are not recycled often end up in the ocean, where they can suffocate or poison marine life. Plastics in the ocean are a major problem that affects all forms of life, even human beings. Plastics float and drift for long distances, polluting the waters and degrading their ability to sustain plant life. They also can release toxic fumes that destroy the ozone layer, killing both plants and animals (source: National Park Service). Bottles and other forms of plastics, such as caps, cans and labels, travel far and wide, contaminating water and land environments in their journey to landfills or recycling centers. Bottles that are burned can produce toxic smoke that contaminates air quality and carries with it dangerous chemical compounds, such as lead, dioxins and furans, that can be harmful to humans, animals and plants.

Some bottles are made from flint glass, which was produced by calcining flints and then combining them with silica (Kaiser 2009). Other types of bottles were made from ground, or “reduced,” flints that were pulverized, mixed with molten silica and then blown into a bottle mold to form the bottle shape. The resultant bottle was then cooled slowly to enhance strength and reduce cooling breakage – a process known as annealing (Source: U.S. Patent Office).

The bottle’s base was sometimes formed in a separate plate referred to as a baffle plate on the parison mold of a semi or fully automatic machine bottle making machine. This produced the “ghost seams” and a suction scar-like mark on the base of machine-made bottles referred to as an Owens-style baffle mark (Tooley 1953; Schulz et al. 2016; empirical observations).

A hand-ground ring on the finish, often with outside threads, was a decoration of many types of historic bottles and some modern ones. This feature is also referred to as an applied or “laid-on” neck ring (see the applied finish section of this glossary). Also see the General Bottle Morphology page.