Millions of years ago, dinosaurs died and were covered with mud. Over a period of time we won’t pretend to wrap our heads around, organic matter that had once roamed and swayed above ground reduced like béchamel, some into a carbon-rich gravy, some into gas. Then, one day very late in our story, a petrochemical company sucked the stuff from deep beneath our feet and brought it into the light. This was refined into ethane and naphtha, which were further refined and transmogrified into plastic, molded to the shape of a bottle, filled with water from a city tap, labeled, shipped across the country, refrigerated, purchased, humped miles into a National Park in Colorado and abandoned by the side of a hiking trail. That’s where I stumbled upon it. Forgotten, crumpled in the dust with beads of water clinging inside its hazy walls — an unceremonious end for something that had traveled so far, but not an uncommon one. Around the world, a million bottles of water are sold every minute, and although they’re almost entirely recyclable, most get tossed into landfills, clog up rivers, and sink to the bottom of the sea, taking anywhere from 500 to 1,000 […]

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