Twenty-First Century Waterfall
Animating Water Bottle Recycling
James, Cornell University
This webpage describes an animation that we made to raise awareness about the surprisingly poor recycling rates of plastic water bottles. Since its recent popularization, bottled water (in all its flavors) has become one of the most consumed, yet least recycled beverages. For example, it is estimated that in 2005 alone approximately 30 billion plastic water bottles were purchased in the US, with only about 12% recycled (in part due to out-dated deposit laws). The remaining 25 billion bottles were either landfilled, littered or incinerated. Obviously that's a lot of bottles, but statistics involving "billions of bottles per year" can be difficult to put into perspective.
This computer animation provides a simple visual comparison of the
rate at which plastic water bottles were recycled (approx. 100
bottles/second) to the nonrecycled rate (approx. 845 bottles/second;
see image) in the US in 2005. To make it more compelling we
torrents of plastic water bottles using custom multibody dynamics,
collisions, finite-element structural vibrations and sound
Reduce, reuse, recycle. Rethink.
- QuickTime MOV (H.264, 30 MB)
- DIV-X AVI (24 MB) (divx codec is available here)
- Windows Media 9 WMV (16 MB)
- YouTube (low-quality, down-sampled)
- Doug L. James
(Assoc. Prof., Cornell University)
- Chris Cameron (now at
- Jernej Barbič (Carnegie Mellon University)
- Moshe Mahler (Carnegie Mellon University)
- The Container Recycling Institute (http://www.container-recycling.org) has a wealth of information and statistics on container recyling.
- CRI's report, Water, Water Everywhere:The Growth of Non-Carbonated Beverages in the U.S. [PDF,368KB], "chronicles the dramatic increase in sales of bottled water and other non-carbonated beverages in recent years and looks at the projected growth of the non-carbonated market."
- Bottle Bill resource guide:
bills are a proven, sustainable method of capturing beverage
bottles and cans for recycling. The refund value of the container
(usually 5 or 10 cents) provides a monetary incentive to return the
container for recycling.
- Recycling links
- Sierra Club on corporate
privatization: Bottled water is about
1000x more expensive than tap water... who benefits? Why does your
drinking water have to involve the oil company?
- Tapped is a film that examines
the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on our health,
climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil.
- Interesting stories on bottled water:
- "Bottles, bottles, everywhere" by Raymon Cruz, Yahoo GREEN, Mar 26, 2008.
- "Message in a Bottle: Despite the Hype, Bottled Water is Neither CLEANER nor GREENER Than Tap Water"
- Ithaca Journal story.
air (oh boy)
- Photographic artist Chris Jordan's stunning work on American
mass consumption and other mind-boggling
AcknowledgementsWe would like to acknowledge the generous support of the following organizations:
- The National Science Foundation (CAREER)
- Pixar (donations, hardware, and RenderMan software)
- Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
- NVIDIA (hardware donations)
- Intel (rendered on
- Autodesk for donated Maya
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed
in this material are those of Doug James and do not necessarily
reflect the views of the National Science Foundation, or any other
Copyright Doug L. James, 2007. All rights reserved.