Around the world, public outcry against single-use plastic packaging is growing. These plastic items, like wrappers, bottled water, and shopping bags, can be found nearly anywhere on Earth, and the impact of these single-use plastic items can be devastating for wildlife, not to mention the beauty of the natural landscape.
Plastic water bottles are among the most commonly littered single-use plastic package, which has lead many schools, universities, cities, and states to move to ban them. One of the biggest impacts you can have in the fight against single-use plastic waste is to simply arm yourself with information and spread it to your friends and family. Here are 10 horrible facts about the bottled water industry and what you can do about it today.
Plastic water bottles are rarely recycled
Manufacturers of plastic water bottles will often cite the fact that they can be recycled, but what they often ignore is the frequency with which they’re actually recycled. Only one out of every five plastic water bottles produced ends up being recycled. This means approximately 20 billion plastic water bottles end up in landfills or trash incinerators every single year.
Plastic water bottles waste fuel
There’s only so much oil to go around, and plastic water bottles waste a lot of it. Each year, 17 million barrels of oil are used to make plastic bottles in the United States alone. It takes 50 million barrels of oil to transport all those bottles to where they’re eventually sold too. Natural gas and coal are also burned to provide the electricity needed to make these plastic bottles.
Bottled water is absurdly expensive…
If you wanted to replace tap water with bottled water as your source of drinking water, it would cost you $346 a year to do so. If you stuck with tap water, the cost would be less than 50 cents. But wait, isn’t tap water unhealthy? Bottled water must be healthier, right?
…and it’s not any better for you
I’m afraid the answer is no, bottled water is dangerously underregulated and has been found to contain small amounts of toxic chemicals. According to tests conducted by the NRDC, about one-third of plastic water bottles contained some level of contamination. It was not cleaner, safer, or more pure than tap water.
Bottled water is just tap water in disguise.
What a scam! Many bottled water companies fill their bottles with 50% local tap water, so even if you were trying to avoid tap water, you probably aren’t. This makes the cost of bottled water even more insulting to the consumer.
Bottled water wastes water
One of the things you never hear about is just how much water it takes to make plastic water bottles. Twice as much water is used in the process of making plastic water bottles than is actually contained by the bottle. Buy a gallon of water in a plastic container and you’re wasting an additional two gallons.
Single-use plastic water bottles kill wildlife
The issue of wildlife death from single-use plastic waste is one that often triggers the most emotional, visceral reaction from the public. And it is true, when you buy plastic bottled water, you run the risk of those bottles harming and even killing wildlife that you would otherwise like to see protected. Many sea birds and other animals simply can’t tell the difference, ingest the plastic, and die from it.
You can’t reuse PET/PETE bottles
What a dirty, unsustainable trick! You may have thought that perhaps you’d just reuse your plastic water bottle. Well hold on! It might not be safe. Polyethylene terephthalate (aka PET or PETE) bottles are only safe for one use, as additional uses can cause chemicals to leach into the water and enter your body. These chemicals may be harmful to your health. DEHA, for example, is thought to cause some types of cancer, and BBP is a hormone disruptor.
Plastic bottles take forever to break down.
Ok, not forever, but the plastic bottle you sip from today is going to be around long after you and I are gone. It can take more than 1,000 years for a plastic bottle to break down, and plastic water bottles release toxic chemicals as they decompose. Yuck!
Water isn’t all that’s in your water.
Different studies have found a pretty wide variety of nasty things in bottled water. That list includes: styrene, algae, glass particles, fecal coliform, mold, kerosene, benzene, tetrahydrofuran, and a random assortment of other bacteria. No thank you.
So what can we do about it?
Okay, so we’ve established that single-use plastic bottles are a real bummer. What can we do about it?
Pick up a sweet tentree reusable water bottle
Shameless self-promotion alert! Our Mizu water bottles are pretty freaking sweet. It holds 27 ounces, fits most cup holders, and features a variety of really awesome designs. These bottles are BPA-free, made with 18/8 food-grade stainless steel, and are 100% recyclable when you’re done with them. You’ll never need another single-use plastic bottle.
Just say no
Plastic water bottles are all over the place, in stores, in vending machines, even handed out for free at major events. Get into the habit of planning ahead, bringing a bottle with you, and just say no to these plastic bottles.
Demand tougher action
Your voice is important in the fight against plastic litter. Tell your local stores and shops about the dangers of bottled water. Ask your city, county, and state to institute bans and progressive bottle deposit laws. If your work, school, or other frequently visited establishments offer plastic bottled water, always decline and strongly encourage them to no longer sell them or give them away.