Why Disposable Water Bottles Are So Bad for the Environment (And What You Can Do About It)


Disposable Plastic Bottles Are Bad For Us

(Single-Use Plastic)

 

Plastic has been a cheap and convenient answer to many of our problems. From saving countless lives in the medical sector to transforming the food storage industry; plastic has been there for us. Today, as plastic literally covers our planet, it’s time for us to take responsibility for creating one of the world’s greatest environmental challenges of all time.


Plastic production has more than tripled since the nineties.  [C]

 

 According to the 2018 U.N. Environment Report, single-use plastics are defined as “items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.” The most common single-use plastics found in the world (in order of magnitude) are[A]:

  • Cigarette butts
  • Plastic drinking bottles
  • Plastic bottle caps
  • Food wrappers
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Plastic lids
  • Straws and stirrers
  • Foam take-away containers

 

Plastic bottles and caps lead the list as the most commonly used forms of single-use plastic. Unfortunately, these accumulate, negatively affecting the environment as well as your personal health. Because of this, reusing a stainless steel bottle over and over is the answer. In this article I will go over why using reusable water bottles is the solution to this very real and dangerous problem.

 

So How Do Plastic Bottles Affect Our Environment?

The Oregan Department of Environmental Quality conducted a life cycle inventory assessment (LCI) to analyze the environmental impact of using plastic bottles and compared it to using reusable stainless-steel bottles. The group analyzed every aspect of manufacturing, transportation, consumer usage, and disposal for both bottle types to calculate the LCI.

LCI is calculated using both 1) Total Energy Consumption and 2) Environmental emissions which makes it a great way to quantify the overall environmental impact throughout the life of the product. In the diagram below, during each phase of the product’s life cycle, energy is expended and excess emissions are released. As we re-use bottles and recycle, the initial steps in this process are skipped as processing new raw material is no longer needed.

Reusable bottles allow us to drink water in them over and over with almost no impact on the environment. Each time you reuse a stainless-steel bottle, that’s one less plastic disposable bottle being used.

 Drinking tap water in a reusable bottle uses 85 percent less energy and 79 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than drinking the same amount of water from a disposable bottle of water. [B]

 

Recyclable Bottles Just Don’t Get Recycled

The sad truth is that when we are finished with plastic single-use bottles, we intend to always recycle, but if it’s not always easy or convenient, most people will just throw the plastic into a normal garbage can so it never gets to the recycling plant. Unfortunately, 79 percent of the plastic waste ever produced now sits in landfills dumps or is littered in the environment. Another 12 percent has been incinerated and created air pollution. Alarmingly, only 9 percent has been recycled. [D]

[D]

“Research shows the effects plastic has on the Earth as well as on humans. It can take up to thousands of years for plastic bags and Styrofoam containers to decompose. In the meantime, it contaminates our soil and water. The toxic chemicals used to manufacture plastic gets transferred to animal tissue, eventually entering the human food chain. As these toxins are ingested they can damage the nervous system, lungs, and reproductive organs.” [D]

It all needs to start with single-use plastic water bottles being replaced by consumers with stainless steel bottles that can be reused forever. Once this gets accomplished, perhaps other industries, such as soda and sports drinks, will retire from using plastic and look for a better and healthier alternative for everyone on the planet.

 

 

 

 

References

[A] Solheim, Erik. “A Roadmap for Sustainability.” Single Use Plastics, 2018, wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/25496/singleUsePlastic_sustainability.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

[B] “Life Cycle Assessment of Drinking Water Systems. Bottle Water, Tap Water, Home/Office Delivery Water.” Revised Final Peer Reviewed LCA Report, State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, 22 Oct. 2009.

[C] McCarthy, Joe. “That Massive Ocean Garbage Patch Is About to Be Cleaned Up.” Global Citizen, Global Citizen, 23 Apr. 2018, www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/cleaning-up-the-great-pacific-garbage-patch/.

[D] Wales, Mary. “c Nature's Path, Nature's Path, 24 July 2018, www.naturespath.com/en-us/blog/single-use-plastics-bad-can/.

[E] “Life Cycle Assessment of Drinking Water Systems. Bottle Water, Tap Water, Home/Office Delivery Water.” Revised Final Peer Reviewed LCA Report, State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, 22 Oct. 2009.