Designing for Green and Grey: Insights from Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles

Recognizing modern society’s multiple risks, this study examines single-use plastic water bottles at the intersection of environmental degradation and societal carelessness for the elderly. While prioritising economic profits and plastic waste, we have neglected bottles’ typical poor openability for older people. Thus, we evaluated the openability of bottles with environmentally friendly and socially inclusive designs in South Korea by comparing older and younger adults’ experiences. Integrating different attributes than existing studies that analyse opening torque or one-handed opening, the test results show that older adults experience the poorest two-handed openability when bottles have both a weight thickness lower than 14.42 g and an easily squeezable bottle structure.

In South Korea, companies advocate eco-friendliness by valuing lighter weight with less plastic and support user-friendliness by adopting easily squeezed sidewall patterns, while the industry maintains broad opening torque regulations; however, we show this combination exceeds older users’ capabilities. That is, for openability, bottles need to keep a weight thickness greater than 12 g Plastic Bottle manufacturer, abandon easily squeezed sidewall patterns or reduce the opening torque regulation range to 100 N-cm. These socially favourable but ecologically adverse measures will be sustainable when the efficient linear economy transitions to an effective circular economy.

Non-target screening for the identification of migrating compounds from reusable plastic bottles into drinking water

  • Reusable plastic sports bottles are used extensively worldwide, and little is known about the migration of chemicals from the bottles into drinking water. In this study, we investigated the chemical migration into drinking water stored for 24 h in new bottles, used bottles and bottles washed in the dishwasher.
  • Non-target screening (NTS) by liquid-chromatography – high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS) was performed to identify these compounds. We detected > 3500 dishwasher related compounds, with 430 showing migration even after subsequent flushing of the bottles.
  • In addition, more than 400 plastic related compounds were detected, with high peaks for oligomers suspected to originate from the biodegradable polyester polycaprolactone, and aromatic amines, which may have been introduced as slip agents or antioxidants. These compounds have never been reported before in bottled water.
  • Most of the identified compounds migrating out of the used bottles were plasticizers, antioxidants or photoinitiators. The presence of photoinitiators are of particular concern, due to possible endocrine disrupting effects. Furthermore, diethyltoluamide (DEET) was detected, which may have been formed from the plasticizer laurolactam.
  • Typically, the dishwashing process enhanced the leaching of plastic related compounds, and even after additional water flushing, the average peak intensity of these compounds was only reduced by half.
  • Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) derived from recycled polyester (polyethylene terephthalate, PET) bottles were investigated in both batch and column studies for the removal of arsenate. As-synthesized Fe-MOF, Zr-MOF, and La-MOF were systematically analyzed by SEM, PXRD, FTIR, BET, and XPS techniques. The obtained MOFs showed high crystallinity with the specific surface area of 128.3, 290.4, and 61.8 m2/g for Fe-MOF, Zr-MOF, and La-MOF, respectively.
  • The Langmuir isotherm and pseudo-second-order kinetic model simulated arsenate adsorption on MOF materials well, which can be explained by electrostatic interactions, surface complexation, and ligand exchange mechanisms. The maximum adsorption capacities of arsenate onto Fe-MOF, Zr-MOF, and La-MOF were found to be 70.02, 85.72, and 114.23 mg/g at pH 7, respectively.
  • The effect of pH and co-existing anions on the arsenate adsorption on MOF materials was also evaluated for practical applications. The MOF materials showed reduced adsorption capacity for arsenate by less than 10% up to four cycles of regeneration and did not induce any significant (p > 0.05) acute toxicity (<2.5% mortality) in Daphnia magna.
  • In a flow-through system, Fe-MOF, Zr-MOF, and La-MOF were used to treat 176, 255, and 398 mL bed volumes of arsenate contaminated water, respectively, and consistently reduced the concentration of arsenate ions from 500 to 10 μg/L. This study clearly demonstrated that MOF materials derived from waste PET bottles are economically promising adsorbents for the successful elimination of arsenate species from aqueous environments.

From bottle to microplastics: Can we estimate how our plastic products are breaking down?

Microplastics (MPs) have become an emerging new pollutant of rising concern due to the exponential growth of plastics in consumer products. Most MP and nanoplastic pollution comes from the fragmentation of plastics through mechanical stress, chemical reactions and biological degradation that occurs during use and after disposal. Models predicting the generation and behavior of MP in the environment are developing, however there is lack of data to predict the rates of MP generation as a function of the abrasive forces. A method to deliver scalable, quantitative release rates of MPs during mechanical stress throughout a plastic’s life cycle (e.g., sanding, chewing, river and ocean disposal) is described. A custom abrasion machine was built with features to provide data to calculate power input.

The generation rate of MPs through abrasion was tested for the following 3D printed polymers: polylactic acid (PLA), polycarbonate (PC), thermoplastic polyurethane 85A (TPU), polyethylene glycol terephthalate (PETG), high-impact polystyrene (HIPS), and nylon. Each material underwent tensile strength material tests to identify which mechanical properties drive their abrasion rate. Abrasion rate was not observed to correlate to macroscopic mechanic properties. Results indicate that the order of abrasion from most to least were HIPS, nylon, PC, PLA, PETG, and then TPU. This study will help comprehend and provide data to understand generation rates of MPs from consumer plastic products and macro-plastic debris. This will be instrumental in helping to better understand the release of MPs and nanoplastics into the environment and to provide data for fate and transport models, especially in order to predict the amount of plastic entering water systems. MP generation rates and power inputs can be correlated with each plastic’s use to inform which release the most MPs and how to better change these products in order to reduce pollution in water sources.

Social Comparison Information Influences Intentions to Reduce Single-Use Plastic Water Bottle Consumption

Single-use plastic consumption is at an all-time high and threatens environmental and human health. College campuses in particular serve as a hub for single-use plastics due to their convenience for students on the go. The present research tests whether social comparison information can influence self-perceptions of single-use plastic consumption and motivate behavior change within the college campus environment. In a controlled experiment, we measured college students’ existing plastic water bottle usage and gave them false feedback about their behaviors and relative standing to their classmates: participants in comparison conditions learned they were either above or below average in their plastic water bottle sustainability behaviors.

Duran Bottles 100Ml Plastic coat

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Results indicated that (relative to a no-comparison control), being above average at water bottle sustainability led students to be more satisfied with their sustainability efforts. However, either kind of comparison information (i.e., being above or below average) led to greater behavioral intentions to reduce single-use plastic water bottle consumption in the future. This study highlights how comparison information can be used to motivate sustainable behavior change with regards to single-use plastics.