Mount Rainier, A World’s Most Prodigious Water Making Machine

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Mt. Rainier holds one of the world’s highest records for snowfall. High amount of precipitation maintains Mt. Rainier’s (and its neighbor’s) glacier systems relatively stable. Carbon Glacier has retreated less than 0.6 miles in roughly the last 150 years. Its immense size and isolated location on Mt. Rainier’s steep north face aid in Carbon Glacier’s sustainability. It is the largest glacier by volume in the contiguous United States.

Interesting read on Mount Rainier:

http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/Rainier/Publications/OFR92-474/OFR92-474.html

http://www.glaciers.pdx.edu/Projects/LearnAboutGlaciers/MRNP/Basics00.html

http://www.glaciers.pdx.edu/Projects/LearnAboutGlaciers/MRNP/Atlas10.html

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How much oil is used to make PET plastic water bottles?

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Plastic bottles do not sink in water and does not biodegrade easily, and have become the most visible and therefore an easy target of environmental activism. It is obviously a great idea to do everything we can to protect our environment and resources. We strongly believe in that. Political policies and popularized media reports and well-meaning blogs let alone TV commercials, however, are not always based on truths and facts. Contrary to popular belief, the entire bottled water industry consumes a fraction of world’s oil production. Moreover, the plastics that is petroleum derived is made from waste refinery streams using the following feedstock:

  • Naphtha, an intermediate hydrocarbon liquid stream derived from the refining of crude oil, which can’t be used in internal combustion engines, 70% of which is used for plastics
  • Propene, also known as propylene or methylethylene, is a byproduct of oil refining and natural gas processing by fluid catalytic cracking, which can’t be sold in propane tanks
  • Benzene, a natural constituent of crude oil, which is removed from the gasoline supply to meet mobile source air toxics (MSAT) regulations

Statistically, less than 4% equivalent of world’s aggregate oil is used in making all plastics. Less than 35% of the plastics is used to make packaging. Of this, 1.2% of plastic packaging is used to make PET plastic drinks bottles. Bottled water constitutes less than 30% of PET plastic drink packaging segment. In summary, entire PET plastic bottled water industry in the world requires less than 0.04×0.35×0.012×0.3=0.0000504 (or 0.00504%) of world’s oil.

Furthermore, only a minority portion (around 13%) of the plastics produced in the USA is petroleum derived, while the rest is made from waste byproducts of natural gas processing. PET is polyethylene terephthalate, the most common type of polyester, made from ethylene (via ethylene glycol) and purified terephthalic acid. Ethylene is produced in the petrochemical industry by steam cracking in which saturated hydrocarbons from the feedstock such as naphtha are broken down into smaller hydrocarbons. Terephthalic acid is produced from an aromatic hydrocarbon feedstock such as benzene. 75% of plastic is made from ethylene, 20% from propylene (8% petroleum-derived), and 5% from petroleum-derived aromatics. These are derived from centralized plants that process ethane (2-carbon chain, natural gas waste byproduct, over 70% of primary plastic source material), propane (3-carbon chain), and naphtha (5, 6-carbon chain), and from refinery derived propylene. Ethylene is 85% made from natural gas liquids, primarily ethane.

Bottom line: PET plastic water bottle is one of the most effective and inert carbon capture & sequestration methods from refinery streams and natural gas processing byproducts, with one of the lowest lifecycle energy cost and environmental footprint among the major product packaging materials, and as such they should be properly disposed of (i.e., stored at landfills), recycled, or reused. PET plastic water bottles require a tiny fraction of world’s oil, and most of that is made from waste refinery byproducts.  We strongly support and promote recycling and upcycling as well as fact based utilization of natural resources and technologies.

Aren’t plastic bottles bad for the environment? Why not switch to glass or bio-degradable bottles?

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We are committed to delivering the benefits of this “perfect water” to the world while minimizing negative impacts to the environment. We examine various industry data and information to create operational blueprints.

Our goals include: 1) reduction in life-cycle energy consumption; 2) reduction in use of non-renewable resources; 3) reduction of non-recyclable waste material; 4) reduction of environmental pollutants; and 5) promotion of sustainable recycling/reuse.

A comprehensive study of packaging life-cycles from resource mining/harvesting to generation of methane, energy/water consumption, transportation impact, recycling and land-fill issues yields logical choices. Currently, in this context, PET plastic bottles still remain one of the better practical options for bottled water containers.

In fact, PET plastic water bottle is one of the most effective and inert carbon capture/sequestration devices with one of the lowest life-cycle energy cost and actual environmental footprint among the major consumer product packaging materials, and as such they should be properly disposed of (i.e., stored at landfills), recycled, or reused. PET plastic water bottles require a tiny fraction of world’s oil, and most of that is made from waste refinery byproducts.

We do plan to offer glass lines in addition to current PET lines to cater to customer’s needs. We may also consider changing the bottle types to a bio-degradable material when certain key issues such as shelf life, impact on recycling utilities and environment (including generation of carbon dioxide and methane) are mitigated.

There are additional FACTS as opposed to popular myths to consider (more on this subject will be posted here later).

Review of Popular Urban Legends Regarding PET Plastic Bottles

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Here is a quick review of popular myths vs. facts regarding PET plastic bottles.

  • Bisphenol A (BPA): PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottles do not contain Bisphenol A (BPA) despite the misinformation abundant in media. BPA is used in the manufacture of some plastics such as food and drink can linings, but it is not used in PET plastic food and drink containers (nor those made from HDPE, LDPE or polypropylene). BPA is a component used to make epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastic, which was often used for refillable water bottles sold at retail stores or baby milk bottles, most of which have now switched to BPA-free types by now. At any rate, PET plastics have nothing to do with BPA.
  • Phthalates: Phthalates (primarily DEHP) are substances used in the manufacture of PVC plastics to make them flexible – they are not used in the manufacture of PET plastic bottles. The term “phthalates,” short for “orthophthalates,” refers to a class of additives, which are used in some plastic products, specifically products made with a particular type of plastic – polyvinyl chloride (also known as PVC or vinyl) – to make the material soft and flexible. Vinyl shower curtains, cable and wire, and flooring are examples of flexible PVC products that can contain phthalates.
  • Carcinogens DEHA: This widely circulated claim stems from a student’s thesis that was promoted in the media without peer review. The thesis incorrectly identifies di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate (DEHA), a plastics additive, as a human carcinogen. DEHA is neither regulated nor classified as a human carcinogen by the U.S. Further, DEHA is not inherent in PET as a raw material, byproduct or decomposition product. DEHA is a common plasticizer that is used in innumerable plastic items.
  • Dioxins: Dioxins are a family of chemical compounds that are produced by combustion at extremely high temperatures. There simply is no scientific basis to support the claim that PET bottles can release dioxin. They can only be formed at temperatures well above 700 degrees Fahrenheit; they cannot be formed at room temperature or in freezing temperatures. Moreover, there is no scientific basis for dioxins to be present in plastic food or beverage containers in the first place.
  • Aceltaldehyde: Acetaldehyde is an organic chemical compound, occurring naturally in coffee, bread, and ripe fruit, and is produced by plants as part of metabolism. It is also produced by oxidation of ethanol and is believed to be a cause of hangovers from alcohol consumption. Acetaldehyde is ubiquitous in the ambient environment.  It is also formed as a product of incomplete wood combustion in fireplaces and woodstoves, coffee roasting, burning of tobacco, vehicle exhaust fumes, and coal refining and waste processing. In addition, Acetaldehyde is formed in the body from the breakdown of ethanol. Potential Aceltaldehyde exposure through bottled water, if any, is inconsequential.