The incredible journey of Lilly the plastic bottle
The plastic use, misuse, pollution, and recycling from the point of view of a plastic bottle. Because plastic objects, like people, are not happy of being misused and abandoned.
Plastic bottles are not bad (they are just a little arrogant sometimes)
Once upon a time, in a small grocery store in Venice, there was a little juice bottle named Lilly.
Lilly was made of PET plastic, recycled PET to be precise. She was so proud of her transparency, her lightness, and her capability to keep the juice in and the air out for months, even years. She stood there, on the supermarket shelf, bragging all the time with other bottles about how fantastic she was.
– Aha, you are so heavy –she said to the glass bottles — so much energy is wasted to carry you and your apple juice around the World. And if you fall on the floor, god save us! You will break into one million pieces, and all the juice will be all over the floor.
– Aha, you are not transparent like me — Lily said to the paperboard bottles — people cannot just see how much juice is left and if it is still good to drink. Plus, I was a PET bottle in my previous life, while you were a tree! Yeah, maybe one from a certified forest, but still…
There she was! Maybe not the nicest and loveliest PET bottle, but she was right, and she knew it! Her friend Marie, an older soda PET bottle, told her so many times to be more friendly with the other fellow bottles and cans made of aluminium, glass, or paperboard, because they had some good qualities, too. — Glass bottles, although heavier than us, can be washed and reused, and they are unmatchable in containing wine. Aluminium cans, although heavier than us and not transparent, can be recycled many more times than we!
See, Lilly, — was always telling Marie — all of us packaging items have exceptional qualities, and if we are used correctly, all of us can give our best!
An irresponsible behaviour makes Lilly end up in the worst place possible
One day Lilly was bought from a guy who was not very environmentally conscious. The juice was drunk straight away, and then Lilly was just thrown onto the street.
— Hey, what are you doing? — cried Lilly, — Pick me up and put me in the right separate waste bin! Don’t you know I can be recycled and become another bottle? Or maybe something else! A polyester fibre with which to make a waterproof raincoat, a sportswear item, a fast-drying t-shirt! I have still so much to give!
She was helpless. She felt so useless. And she realized one terrible thing: she had become pollution! At that moment a gust of wind lifted her and made her fly straight into a canal nearby. Well, Venice is full of them… Lilly knew that’s the worst possible place where she could find herself.
Marie always told her terrible stories about what happened to plastic bottles ending up in the sea: “When plastic bottles arrive in the sea, it is almost impossible for them to be picked up and recycled into something useful. They will just float around for many months and then they will start breaking up due to the sun and the oxygen in the air until they disintegrate into small pieces that can be very harmful to the fish and birds”.
Nobody likes me here!
After some time floating sadly in the sea, Lilly met two fish.
– What an ugly fish you are! — said the first fish to Lilly — So weirdly shaped and colored… or… are you food for me?
– Oh, I am not a fish or food for you, sir. I am a plastic bottle, and my name is Lilly!
– Keep away from her! — said the other fish — Plastic bottles can be harmful to us fish if we eat them. Go away! — he said then to Lilly — you don’t belong here!
Lilly was so depressed. Didn’t those fish see how fantastic she was? She was transparent, lightweight, she could keep all the seawater outside… But yeah, that fish was right. Fish didn’t care about this: she didn’t belong there. She was not supposed to be there, as all the features which made her a fantastic juice bottle — lightness, transparency, durability — also made her “the ugliest of the fish”, and even harmful for the sea life.
The countless lives waiting for Lilly
Lilly didn’t want to become a threat to all the sea life: she still had so much to give. Marie used to tell her fantastic stories about reused bottles. Lilly had learned that, after her life as a juice bottle, she could still work as a container, maybe not anymore for juice, but surely for much other stuff like toothbrushes, bird seeds, flower soil, coins, pens, and many, oh, so many other things.
And, at the end of all these lives, she could be easily recycled at least three times just by melting and reshaping through mechanical recycling. And after mechanical recycling, was it the end? No way!
When the PET material that constituted her becomes too old to be recycled mechanically, she could still encounter another type of recycling, chemical recycling. “In chemical recycling” used to tell Marie “we PET bottles are depolymerized, which means that we come back to the very small building blocks that constitute us.
This PET that builds us is made of very long molecules looking pretty much like pearl necklaces. After some cycles of melting and reshaping, these necklaces become too short to do their job, but in the chemical recycling they can be all broken down and the pearls can be recovered and used to build new necklaces, so new PET molecules, which can be given the shape of another juice bottle!
So remember, little Lilly: we PET bottles are precious like pearl necklaces!”.
Back on the land!
Yeah, Marie was right. Lilly still had so much to give; she was made of recycled PET, so she could still be reused for a while, then melted and reshaped through mechanical recycling, and then fully recovered in the chemical recycling! Lilly wanted to live all these experiences, and surely she didn’t want to pollute the sea for one second more.
Strong of this consciousness, she wanted to reach the shore, where someone would pick her up and reuse her, or at least throw her in the right bin. Since she knew very well that plastic bottles can’t swim (because otherwise all the plastic objects floating in the ocean would reach the nearest shore and be picked up if they could swim: no plastic piece wants to stay in the sea!), she asked for help to a tortoise passing by, who brought her closer to the shore. When Lilly finally reached the beach, she still didn’t feel appreciated: for a while, no one picked her up, and all the animals and plants of the beach looked at her with despise.
Lilly meets Rosalind
One day, a little girl named Rosalind passed by. She stood there for a while looking at Lilly with curiosity.
After some time of deep thinking, Rosalind picked Lilly up and brought her home. She was a very creative but a little bit messy girl, and she was desperately looking for a vase for her flowers, as she has just broken her beautiful but fragile glass vase.
The girl thought that Lilly could make a perfect vase: Lilly was still in good shape without holes or dents, so she could still retain water for her flowers. Plus, Lilly could be easily shaped into a vase only with some scissors. Most importantly, if Lilly by accident fell on the floor, she wouldn’t break as her previous vases.
A second life (and many more ahead)
The girl first washed Lilly with water and soap to remove all the weed and sand, and after some makeover… voila!
The former juice bottle Lilly had become a very proud vase for the flowers of a little girl who could still see the beauty and usefulness in her and give her a second life.
At that moment, Lilly remembered what Marie used to tell her: we all have exceptional qualities, we have just to find our way to make them shine!
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