How Many Plastic Bottles Are Thrown Away Each Year?


According to a 2009 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 632,655 to 999,001 tons of plastic water bottles were discarded in 2006. This analysis calculated the total as 76.5 percent of the plastic bottles produced in the United States.

Based on 2006 numbers reported by an environmental nonprofit organization and the beverage industry, the United States produced 827,000 to 1.3 million tons of polyethylene terephthalate plastic bottles that year. Most of these discarded bottles went to landfills, although some were incinerated or became litter. Experts from the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery and the Solid Waste Association of North America informed the GAO that, while PET plastic is inert, the bottles are generally shielded from sunlight and the atmosphere in landfills. Under these circumstances, it is unknown whether plastic bottles are ever likely to decompose.