Thursday, June 26, 2008

Genesis of the Plastic Water Bottle: Two

The genesis or evolution of the modern-day plastic water bottle is richer and deeper than you may have imagined…

John Caruso, explained the development of the "water vessel" (aka water bottle) in his article: Skins, Gourds, Pop Bottles, and Design: The Evolution of the Canteen as an Artifact.
Here are some excerpts and my comments

Humble beginnings:
“One of the most important inventions of early humans was the development of technology that allowed hunters to travel farther. (Travelling is fun-just wait until we invent the jet plane.) This was simply a portable water vessel or water-carrying device. (Oh do tell me more!) Early societies could travel safely only as long as there was a safe source of water for drinking. In order for the hunter-gatherers to travel farther they had to develop a way to take water with them. Thus, the first portable water vessel or 'canteen' developed out of the necessity of acquiring more food sources. (Yes it is true all great stories start with food.)

Look at us go:
“Water vessels were created in imitation of water-catching leaves and other organic structures. (Hum...) Animal skins and stomach casings (ick) were used in temperate regions to carry water. Entire animal skins, such as goat, were used in desert cultures to carry and store water; hollowed-out gourds were used in forested regions. Vessels were carved of wood as well as sections of bamboo trees for use in Asian jungle and island cultures.”

…and go:
“Wood was used to construct small boxes and barrels, which were developed as canteens in the 16th and 17th century. (I think those barrels came in handy for other libations too.) Glass bottles appeared but were not popular (boo!-glass is cool) due to their expense and fragile nature (oh). With the development of metals and the industrial capacity to bend and form metal, round bottle shapes began to appear of sheet-formed metal, first as two bowls welded together with the addition of a spout. Eventually the modern canteen shape was created in aluminum deep drawn stamping and was the standard for 80 years. (Sigg any one?)

“This design [used for aluminum canteens] was then copied and produced in plastic using blow-molded polyethylene."(STOP!)

Kind of cool how it all unfolded, until the plastic part, that is. Hooray for water bottles that allowed us to evolve! Perhaps though we have taken this necessity for “a safe source of drinking water” a little too far. Just a thought—I'm open to debating it. Are you really going to die of thirst during that meeting or when you are out shoe shopping. Well I am feeling parched just thinking about buying new shoes…where is my safe source of drinking water right now anyway? If you are feeling parched now is the time to act—buy a reusable canteen! I love it—canteen sounds so much cooler than bottle. Now get out there and hunt and gather. Live the dream!

Source: Caruso, J. (2001) Skins, Gourds, Pop Bottles, and Design: The Evolution of the Canteen as an Artifact. The Technology Teacher, 61(3), 23-25.

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