convenient but destructive, I love my reusable water bottle so much, I go to bed with it!
So this is an obvious one that I’m sure you expected to find in the environment section of this website. Plastic water bottles. You would not believe the number of plastic water bottles that are used and tossed away every single day. The amount of bottles that end up in our water ways, negatively effecting and harming our wildlife, and food sources. I haven’t even mentioned the chemicals that go into making these plastic bottles, and the chemicals that slowly leach into the water (in the bottle) and the environment. I am always so amazed when I go for my daily walk which is usually only 2 km long how many water bottles I find alongside the road or in the ditch.
About 1 million water bottles are bought every minute worldwide. Yikes, that is an insanely huge number. That yearly number wouldn’t even fit on a standard calculator. There has been so many water bottles sold so far that if they were all placed end to end we could make it half way to the sun. The sun is approximately 149.6 million km from the earth. So there is approximately 74.8 km of plastic water bottles. Most plastic water bottles are made from PET which is a highly recyclable material. If only everyone would actually recycle them properly. In 2004 there were approximately 300 million plastic bottles sold, in 2016 that number had increased to approximately 500 million and is continuing to grow. Only about half of these bottles are actually collected and less than 10 % are even recycled.
There are so many different types of plastic bottles from water bottles, to soda bottles, and even plastic reusable bottles. These bottles are made of different types of plastics so it is hard to be precise on exactly how long they take to biodegrade. Let’s dig deeper. The average time to biodegrade is about 450 years, some as long as 1,000 years. Like I said before less than 10% of plastic bottles are recycled. Meaning 90% of them end up in landfills, oceans, water ways, parks and other places where they don’t belong. Plastic bottles made from (PET or PETE) will never fully biodegrade. Meaning although they will break down into what seems like smaller particles they will always be left on this earth.
You ever notice how when they talk about oil crises and the increase of our fuel they never talk about the amount of oil that goes into making plastics? Specifically all the plastic water bottles. Not to mention delivery of these bottles as well! In America alone it took over 17 million barrels of oil not including transportation to make these bottles. Produced over 2.5 Tons of carbon monoxide, and took 3 Litres of water to make 1 Litre of bottled water. Uhm what now?! The plastic bottles use over 900,000 tons of plastic and are made mostly from gas, and petroleum based fossil fuels, which are not renewable. Not only this but when these bottles aren’t recycled properly and sit in our landfills they leach out toxins into our soil, and ground water. BPA has always been the biggest focus on releasing harsh chemicals and is now monitored a lot closer and banned from any plastic that are used for food products, but they aren’t the only type of plastic leaching chemicals. A lot of plastics release chemicals that can mimic estrogen. Hmm maybe there’s a link between all these “hormonal problems”. Some plastics have been connected with causing cancer in some people. Some research is still kind of “IFFY” but it is always something to be aware of. When we use all these unnatural products our bodies aren’t able to filter out all these outside contaminates, neither is nature.
Some people will argue that using water bottles is healthier and has less toxins than tap water. There is no fluoride in water bottles and most toxins are filtered out, but as true as that is small particle of plastic can leach into the water, along with a bunch of other nasty chemicals and as I’ve mentioned before the environmental impact is outrageous. So what can we do to make sure we are getting pure clean water if that is a main concern? Purchase a water filter, it will save you money in the long run. They may need maintenance from time to time, but if you are really concerned about contaminants in tap water, this would be your best bet at reducing your impact on the environment and making sure you are getting the clean water you want. I personally am not concerned about the amount of toxins that may be present in our water, and would much rather bring my own reusable water bottle than to litter the earth.
So what are all these bottles doing to our oceans, water ways and our beautiful animals living on it? We know there is always a focus on how much plastic is floating around in the oceans. Tons of plastic. But what about the rivers, lakes and streams? A lot of rivers flow into the ocean, which might even be like a passage way for 80% of the plastic that ends up in the ocean? Should we be focusing our attention on rivers and lakes? Yes we should. I’m not saying forget about the ocean, it is still obviously a huge concern, but let’s not forget about the rivers and other fresh water bodies out there. The more polluted these fresh water sources become, the less clean water we have to drink. These plastic bottles slowly break down into smaller particles, leaching chemicals into our waterways, yuck! These particles and chemicals make the water unsafe for our consumption. They also make the water toxic for fish and other creatures that live in the water (turtles, frogs, insects, plants, etc.) They also make the water and food sources around them toxic. Which in turn can affect the life and habitat of other creatures, like birds, rodents, deer, beavers, etc. There is such a huge cause and effect from one water bottle. It doesn’t seem like a very big problem until you see the bigger picture, until you see who it’s effecting and see how easy it is to change these negative effects.
You may not think an animal will try to ingest a plastic water bottle, but to a whale a plastic bottle is pretty small, and may even look like a floating piece of food. The lids of plastic bottles are small enough for many animals to swallow and ingest. There is often pieces of plastic found in the stomachs of sea animals, and is estimated that humans that consume sea food eat about 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year, now this is based off of an average obviously. If you have 2 cans of tuna all year I doubt you consume 11,000 pieces but if you are eating fish on the daily I’m sure that number is more accurate. Even though this is an estimate it may or may not be true, I don’t think it has been proven but it is something worth thinking about when you see a bottle lying on the ground, Even though you didn’t put it there you can set a positive example by doing the right thing and recycling it. Plastic bottles take up about 15% of the garbage floating around in our water ways. That is a huge percentage considering how many types of garbage are floating around.
So how can we reduce our plastic bottle problem? Well if everyone started using a reusable stainless steel bottle that wold be a huge step. There are so many different types and styles of reusable water bottles. They have different style lids, are different shapes, come in different colours, and some are even insulated and will keep your beverage cold, or warm for a much longer period of time! BONUS! So not only are reusable water bottles stylish, but they are a one-time purchase. Spend $15.00 on a reusable water bottle and it will pay itself off after 7-8 uses (instead of buying 7-8 water bottles).You can keep them in your car, or purse and whenever you are out you can use a fountain or sink and fill them up! I have 2 that I love one is a large 1 litres bottle, I mainly use it for long road trips, or if we go on a full day hike. It is insulated and my water stays cold for hours. I have another water bottle that gets the most use. It’s 500ml and also insulated. It keeps my water cool all day and is light weight. I think I’ve had it for almost 10 years. The paint on the outside is starting to come off, but the bottle its self is in perfect condition. I’ve saved so much money, and plastic by refilling my water bottles and reusing them.
Another option is to use mason jars, you can put lids on them and bring them around with you, and they are so great for carrying juice, iced tea, or lemonade especially if it’s homemade! It’s a good option also if you have extra jars but are short on money and can’t afford to buy a reusable water bottle right away. So try it out, find a reusable water bottle that fits your lifestyle. The style of cap you love drinking out of, a bottle that fits your hand perfectly! Don’t forget to have fun with reducing your waste. Don’t have extra cash, use a mason jar. Don’t have a mason jar, use any recycled glass bottle!
Here are some extra fun things people have done to reuse and up cycle plastic water bottles!
Resources: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/28/a-million-a-minute-worlds-plastic-bottle-binge-as-dangerous-as-climate-change https://www.postconsumers.com/2011/10/31/how-long-does-it-take-a-plastic-bottle-to-biodegrade/ https://www.npr.org/2011/03/02/134196209/study-most-plastics-leach-hormone-like-chemicals https://www.praguepost.com/bottled-water-filtered-water-pros-cons https://www.elementalbottles.com/blogs/news/steel-water-bottle-vs-plastic-water-bottle-whats-the-benefit-of-steel-water-bottle