Twenty-First Century Waterfall

Animating Water Bottle Recycling Rates

Contact: Doug 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 simulated and rendered both torrents of plastic water bottles using custom multibody dynamics, collisions, finite-element structural vibrations and sound synthesis.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. Rethink.

Animation Formats


Other Resources


We would like to acknowledge the generous support of the following organizations:


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 organizations.

Copyright notice

Copyright Doug L. James, 2007.  All rights reserved. 

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