Do you know where the plastic water bottle in your hand came from? What about after you toss it into your recycling bin? From conception to rebirth, your water bottle goes through many processes.

Looking at the plastic bottle, it may be interesting to note the bottle started in a liquid form – petroleum to be specific. Oil is extracted from the ground and sent to a refinery where it is cleaned of impurities and transformed into different variations, depending on the oil’s use. It could be used for kerosene, jet fuel, diesel fuel, etc. In the case of the plastic bottle, it becomes petroleum.

The petroleum then travels to a plastics processing plant where it is transformed into small plastic pellets. The pellets are strong and lightweight.

The pellets are then placed into a machine called an extruder that melts the plastic pellets and prepares them to become plastic bottles.

The extruder injects the extremely hot plastic into molds that form a plastic open-ended tube. Warm, pressurized air is blown into the plastic tube causing it to expand like a balloon and start to form the familiar bottle shape. Different molds are used for different shapes – such as a water bottle, milk container, soda bottle, etc.

As soon as the bottle shape is created, the plastic is immediately cooled to maintain the integrity and durability of the bottle. If it stays warm, the bottle could deflate or become warped and not be usable.

Cold water or liquid nitrogen is injected into the bottle to chill the plastic. Once chilled, the bottle is emptied and a blast of cool air removes any leftover particles from the molding process. Some bottle manufacturing companies create bottles out of two parts – a top half and a bottom half, and meld the two pieces together instead of creating one long tube. Can you tell by looking at your bottle which process was used?

The bottles are shipped to a bottling plant where they are filled with water, tea, soda, juice or whatever their intended purpose is. Labels are affixed with a brand name and the bottles are packaged and shipped to stores or vending companies. Many bottling companies prepare orders for several companies at one location.

The bottles are shelved at stores or placed in vending machines waiting for consumers to purchase them.

After the bottle is empty, it is either tossed into the trash or the recycling bin. If it is tossed in the trash, it ends up at a landfill.

However, if the bottle is recycled, it is shipped to a recycling plant to be used for something else.

At the recycling plant, the bottles are sorted and cleaned. Then, the cleaned bottles are shredded or turned into chips. The shreds or chips are sent to a plastics processing plant which will turn them into plastic pellets.

The plastic pellets are then used to create more bottles, carpet, toys, electronics, etc.

Keep the cycle going – don’t forget to recycle your plastic bottles. If you’re not sure if you can recycle your bottle, look on the bottle for a small triangle. If there is a “1” or “2” inside the triangle, you can recycle the bottle and help reduce the number of bottles that end up in the landfill.