Plastic Water Bottles Causing Flood of Harm to Our Environment.
I remember the first time I saw a bottle of water for sale, thinking it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever encountered. 1Who the heck would actually PAY to drink water when they could get it for free at home? That’s just crazy! I drank out of the faucet every single day, or the garden hose in a pinch, and there was obviously nothing wrong with me (other than mentally). But there they were, plastic bottles of water lined up in a cooler next to the Fantas and Tabs, happily purchased by the same screwy people who were walking around yelling into those new huge Walkie Talkie things called “cellphones.” It was sometime in the 1980s, in the midst of a generation that was itself defined by ridiculousness — fads like the Rubik’s Cube, specialty Nike running shoes for a whopping $50, and Atari’s Miss Pacman, an introduction to the new religion of consumerism for its own sake.
2Back then, even the most optimistic capitalist couldn’t have guessed where the water bottle industry was heading. Thirty years later it’s not just a luxury item for those driving Porsche 911s with their salmon-colored collars up, but a stalwart of regular American life. Yes, me too — I became one of those screwy people who bought bottled water by the case and yapped into his “cellphone” non -top (sometimes even when another person was on the line.)
3But the damage from the bottled water industry isn’t just to our intelligence and our wallets; it’s also to the world we live in. Our environment is being impacted, not just the image of a nice sunny far-off meadow that word conjures but the actual surroundings that we depend on to sustain our lives. Our human fish tank is getting terrifically cloudy because of the plastic water bottles we buy and discard so thoughtlessly.
4How big is the bottled water industry?
5There are 50 billion water bottles consumed every year, about 30 billion of them in the US (which means we consume roughly 60 percent of the world’s water bottles, even though we’re about 4.5 percent of the world population).
16There are 1,500 water bottles consumed per SECOND in the U.S.
72011 was a high point for bottle water sales, where 9.1 billion gallons were sold, or 29.1 gallons per person per year, the highest in sales and volume in history.
8What does it take to manufacture the water bottles?
10It takes three times the volume of water to manufacture one bottle of water than it does to fill it, and because of the chemical production of plastics that water is mostly unusable.
11We use 17 million barrels of oil each year just to produce all of those water bottles.
12To put it in perspective, that’s enough oil to keep a million cars fueled for a whole year! (Or your Hummer to Ikea and back.)
13The Earth Policy Institute factors the energy used to pump, process, transport and refrigerate our bottled water as over 50 million barrels of oil every year. That’s an insane amount of resources for something that is a completely unneeded.
14Another way to think of it: when you pick up a water bottle at the supermarket, hold it up and imagine it filled ¼ with oil. That’s how much in fossil fuels it took just to manufacture it!
15Even the environmental impact of delivering all that bottled water is profound, both from overseas (Fiji Water, Pellegrino) and distribution to stores in the US. It takes a fleet of 40,000 18-wheelers just to deliver our bottle water every week!
What’s the environmental impact?
17Water bottles are made of completely recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics, but PETs don’t biodegrade they photodegrade, which means they break down into smaller fragments over time. Those fragments absorb toxins that pollute our waterways, contaminate our soil, and sicken animals (which we then eat). Plastic trash also absorbs organic pollutants like BPA and PCBs.They may take centuries to decompose while sitting in landfills, amounting to endless billions of little environmentally poisonous time bombs.
18According to the Ocean Conservatory, plastic bottles and plastic bags are the most prevalent form of pollution found on our beaches and in our oceans — every square mile of the ocean has over 46,000 pieces of floating plastic in it.
19Ten percent of the plastic manufactured worldwide ends up in the ocean, the majority of that settling on the ocean floor where it will never degrade.
20But don’t we recycle?
21Eighty percent of the water bottles we buy end up in landfills, the absolute worst place for them to be. That means roughly for every 10 bottles we drink, only two end up in the recycle bin.
22Our national recycle rate for PET’s is only 23 percent, which means we throw 38 billion water bottles into landfills a year.
25That’s $1 billion worth of plastic that should end up in the “recycling stream”where they can be reused as carpeting, synthetic decking, playground equipment, and new bottles and containers.
26Isn’t bottled water safer and cleaner?
27No. In fact, all the majority of evidence shows that it’s worse for you. Plastic leaches into the water it holds, which has been linked to health issues like reproductive problems and different types of cancer. Harmful hormone-disrupting phthalates leach into the bottled water we drink after as little as 10 weeks of storage, or much faster once the bottles have been left in the sun (like in the car.)
28Tap water isn’t perfect either because the purity varies depending on where you live, but the same could be said for bottled water. The National Resources Defense Council conducted an intensive study of bottled water and ascertained that 22 percent of the water tested contained contaminant levels that exceeded the state health limits.
29New York city has the safest, cleanest tap water in the whole country, and San Francisco draws its public drinking water supply from nearby Yosemite National Park, so pure they don’t even require it to be filtered.
30If you wanted to check out how your local water system rates, click here.
31Does it taste better?
33Your best bet is using tap water run through a good filter on your kitchen tap or drinking container, which will yield you the cheapest, cleanest, most convenient water source.
34Is bottled water a rip off?
35You know how you pay $3 + for a cup of coffee that probably costs 20 cents to make? You look like a financial genius making that purchase compared to the economics of bottled water. Bottled water costs well in excess of 1,000 times that of tap water, even with a filter.
36Eight glasses of water, the recommended daily amount costs about $0.50 cents out of the tap, but about $1,400 if you bought bottles!
137To put it in scale, if all of the water you used around the house for showers, dishwashing, watering the plants, etc. was bottled water your monthly H20 bill would be about $9,000.
38Did you know that up to 47.8 percent of the bottled water we buy is actually just repackaged tap water? Yeah, and the mega-beverage conglomerates Coke, Pepsi and Nestle hold most of the market share. Can you spell “S-U-C-K-E-R?”
39We complain incessantly about gas prices at $3.89 a gallon, but the same amount of San Pellegrino bottled water would cost close to $10. But I’m not trying to stop you from flushing your money down the toilet (so to speak,) however there is a greater cost to all of us as a society, country, and interconnected world community.
What is the ripple effect?
41780 million people around the world, more than twice the population of the United States, don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water.
42Of course the water bottle you don’t buy isn’t going to end up with them, but everything is interconnected, from trade policies and use of fossil fuels, to environmental impact and irrigation, and ultimately damage to food-producing industries like agriculture and fisheries.
43Already, pollution is estimated to be one of the biggest causes of death around the world, affecting more than 100 million people per year, more than epidemics like Malaria and HIV.
44The U.S. consumes natural resources, like fossil fuels, and pollutes the environment at an alarming rate. Though less than five percent of the world’s population, we consume more than 25 percent of the resources and produce 30 percent of the trash and environmental pollutants.
45Not only are we severely harming the land, air and water around us, but the rest of the world has to pay the price for our thoughtless over-consumption, and soon our children and generations to come will be tirelessly cleaning up our mess.
46However, it’s not all doom and gloom — just like the water bottle phenomenon took off within a short time, as did cell phones and other trends, a cultural shift can start creating solutions with lightning efficiency.
47So please stay tuned for part 2, What We Can do TODAY to Fix The Water Bottle Problem, and
part 3, Creative And Functional Uses For Empty Water Bottles.
22 Facts About Plastic Pollution (And 10 Things We Can Do About It)
2Apr. 07, 2014 12:35PM EST
3By Nicole D’Alessandro
4It seems nearly impossible to escape plastic in our every day lives, doesn’t it?
5And we can’t escape plastic pollution, either.
16Plastic is literally at my fingertips all day long. Plastic keyboard. Plastic framed computer monitor.Plastic mouse. The amount of plastic I encounter daily doesn’t end there. Chances are, you can relate. Plastic is an epidemic.
7But where does all this plastic go? We ship some of it overseas to be recycled. Quite a bit ends up in landfills. And more than you can imagine ends up on the loose as plastic pollution, eventually making its way into our waterways.
8Tiny plastic beads used in hundreds of toiletries like facial scrubs and toothpastes have even been found in our Great Lakes—the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world! Giant garbage patches (one twice the size of Texas) can be found floating around in the oceans. And all this plastic pollution is not only a problem for the earth, it’s bad for our health.
9Here are 22 Preposterous Facts About Plastic Pollution:
- 10Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
- 1150 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.
- 12Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.
- 13We currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce.
- 14Plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate.
- 15The production of plastic uses around eight percent of the world’s oil production (bioplastics are not a good solution as they require food source crops).
- 16Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year (source: Brita)
- 17Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
- 1846 percent of plastics float (EPA 2006) and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating in the ocean gyres.
- 19It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade.
- 20Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences in the oceans making up about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces. 80 percent of pollution enters the ocean from the land.
- 21The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one.
- 22Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.
- 23One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
- 12444 percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.
- 25In samples collected in Lake Erie, 85 percent of the plastic particles were smaller than two-tenths of an inch, and much of that was microscopic. Researchers found 1,500 and 1.7 million of these particles per square mile.
- 26Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated).
- 27Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.
28Here are 10 Ways to Rise Above Plastic:
- 129Choose to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water. Cloth bags and metal or glass reusable bottles are available locally at great prices.
- 30Refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other “disposable” plastics.Carry reusable utensils in your purse, backpack or car to use at bbq’s, potlucks or take-out restaurants.
- 31Reduce everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons by replacing them with a reusable lunch bag/box that includes a thermos.
- 32Bring your to-go mug with you to the coffee shop, smoothie shop or restaurants that let you use them, which is a great way to reduce lids, plastic cups and/or plastic-lined cups.
- 33Go digital! No need for plastic cds, dvds and jewel cases when you can buy your music and videos online.
- 34Seek out alternatives to the plastic items that you rely on.
- 35Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics. Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates.
- 36Support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills.
- 37Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends about why it is important to reduce plastic in our lives and the nasty impacts of plastic pollution.
38Watch Rise Above Plastics—Plastics Kill from Surfrider Foundation:
A million bottles a minute: world’s plastic binge ‘as dangerous as climate change’
1A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change.
2New figures obtained by the Guardian reveal the surge in usage of plastic bottles, more than half a trillion of which will be sold annually by the end of the decade.
3The demand, equivalent to about 20,000 bottles being bought every second, is driven by an apparently insatiable desire for bottled water and the spread of a western, urbanised “on the go” culture to China and the Asia Pacific region.
4More than 480bn plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300bn a decade ago. If placed end to end, they would extend more than halfway to the sun. By 2021 this will increase to 583.3bn, according to the most up-to-date estimates from Euromonitor International’s global packaging trends report.
5Most plastic bottles used for soft drinks and water are made from polyethylene terephthalate (Pet), which is highly recyclable. But as their use soars across the globe, efforts to collect and recycle the bottles to keep them from polluting the oceans, are failing to keep up.
6Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.
7Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
8Experts warn that some of it is already finding its way into the human food chain.
9Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently calculated people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year. Last August, the results of a study by Plymouth Universityreported plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish. Last year, the European Food Safety Authority called for urgent research, citing increasing concern for human health and food safety “given the potential for microplastic pollution in edible tissues of commercial fish”.
10Dame Ellen MacArthur, the round the world yachtswoman, now campaigns to promote a circular economy in which plastic bottles are reused, refilled and recycled rather than used once and thrown away.
11“Shifting to a real circular economy for plastics is a massive opportunity to close the loop, save billions of dollars, and decouple plastics production from fossil fuel consumption,” she said.
12Hugo Tagholm, of the marine conservation and campaigning group Surfers Against Sewage, said the figures were devastating. “The plastic pollution crisis rivals the threat of climate change as it pollutes every natural system and an increasing number of organisms on planet Earth.
13“Current science shows that plastics cannot be usefully assimilated into the food chain. Where they are ingested they carry toxins that work their way on to our dinner plates.” Surfers Against Sewage are campaigning for a refundable deposit scheme to be introduced in the UK as a way of encouraging reuse.
14Tagholm added: “Whilst the production of throwaway plastics has grown dramatically over the last 20 years, the systems to contain, control, reuse and recycle them just haven’t kept pace.”
15In the UK 38.5m plastic bottles are used every day – only just over half make it to recycling, while more than 16m are put into landfill, burnt or leak into the environment and oceans each day.
116“Plastic production is set to double in the next 20 years and quadruple by 2050 so the time to act is now,” said Tagholm.
17There has been growing concern about the impact of plastics pollution in oceans around the world. Last month scientists found nearly 18 tonnes of plastic on one of the world’s most remote islands, an uninhabited coral atoll in the South Pacific.
19Another study of remote Arctic beaches found they were also heavily polluted with plastic, despite small local populations. And earlier this week scientists warned that plastic bottles and other packaging are overrunning some of the UK’s most beautiful beaches and remote coastline, endangering wildlife from basking sharks to puffins.
20The majority of plastic bottles used across the globe are for drinking water, , according to Rosemary Downey, head of packaging at Euromonitor and one of the world’s experts in plastic bottle production.
21China is responsible for most of the increase in demand. The Chinese public’s consumption of bottled water accounted for nearly a quarter of global demand, she said.
22“It is a critical country to understand when examining global sales of plastic Pet bottles, and China’s requirement for plastic bottles continues to expand,” said Downey.
23In 2015, consumers in China purchased 68.4bn bottles of water and in 2016 this increased to 73.8bn bottles, up 5.4bn.
25A worker sorts plastic bottles at a recycling centre on the outskirts of Wuhan, Hubei province, China. Photograph: Jie Zhao/Corbis/Getty Images
26“This increase is being driven by increased urbanisation,” said Downey. “There is a desire for healthy living and there are ongoing concerns about groundwater contamination and the quality of tap water, which all contribute to the increase in bottle water use,” she said. India and Indonesia are also witnessing strong growth.
27Plastic bottles are a big part of the huge surge in usage of a material first popularised in the 1940s. Most of the plastic produced since then still exists; the petrochemical-based compound takes hundreds of years to decompose.
29Major drinks brands produce the greatest numbers of plastic bottles. Coca-Cola produces more than 100bn throwaway plastic bottles every year – or 3,400 a second, according to analysis carried out by Greenpeace after the company refused to publicly disclose its global plastic usage. The top six drinks companies in the world use a combined average of just 6.6% of recycled Pet in their products, according to Greenpeace. A third have no targets to increase their use of recycled plastic and none are aiming to use 100% across their global production.
30Plastic drinking bottles could be made out of 100% recycled plastic, known as RPet – and campaigners are pressing big drinks companies to radically increase the amount of recycled plastic in their bottles. But brands are hostile to using RPet for cosmetic reasons because they want their products in shiny, clear plastic, according to Steve Morgan, of Recoup in the UK.
32You’ll find them on the beaches, too. Photograph: Barbara Walton/EPA
33In evidence to a House of Commons committee, the British Plastics Federation (BPF), a plastics trade body, admitted that making bottles out of 100% recycled plastic used 75% less energy than creating virgin plastic bottles. But the BPF said that brands should not be forced to increase the recycled content of bottles. “The recycled content … can be up to 100%, however this is a decision made by brands based on a variety of factors,” said Philip Law, director general of the BPF.
34The industry is also resisting any taxes or charges to reduce demand for single-use plastic bottles – like the 5p charge on plastic bags that is credited with reducing plastic bag use by 80%.
36Dame Ellen MacArthur, sailor and long-distance yachtswoman. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
37Coca Cola said it was still considering requests from Greenpeace to publish its global plastics usage. A spokeswoman said: “Globally, we continue to increase the use of recycled plastic in countries where it is feasible and permitted. We continue to increase the use of RPet in markets where it is feasible and approved for regulatory food-grade use – 44 countries of the more than 200 we operate in.”
38She agreed plastic bottles could be made out of 100 percent recycled plastic but there was nowhere near enough high quality food grade plastic available on the scale that was needed to increase the quantity of rPET to that level.
39“So if we are to increase the amount of recycled plastic in our bottles even further then a new approach is needed to create a circular economy for plastic bottles,” she said.
40Greenpeace said the big six drinks companies had to do more to increase the recycled content of their plastic bottles. “During Greenpeace’s recent expedition exploring plastic pollution on remote Scottish coastlines, we found plastic bottles nearly everywhere we went,” said Louisa Casson, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace.
141“It’s clear that the soft drinks industry needs to reduce its plastic footprint.”
Plastic vs Our Environment by Penelope is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.