PLASTIC BOTTLES AND IT’S INFLUENCE ON OUR ENVIRONMENT
We all use plastic. It is a part of our lives. We use it directly and indirectly. We use plastic when we go shopping, when we buy groceries from our supermarkets. We buy plastic when we buy all sorts of products; from shampoo, shower gels, sodas, all those tasty, cold drinks with carbon-dioxide, even water. Plastic is all around us.
But You may or may not know that, even though plastic is perhaps practical to use and it may seem cheap, it does have it’s backsides. And when I say that it does, I mean that it really does.
Short information! Did You know that in the United States of America, right now approximately 1,500 plastic bottles are being consumed?
But let us see what it is that makes use of plastic bottles malevolent and harmful to our environment and our planet.
Most plastic bottles contain Bisphenol (BPA), the chemical used to make the plastic hard and clear. BPA is an endocrine disruptor which has been proven hazardous to human health. BPA is also linked to certain types of cancer, all kinds of neurological difficulties, even early puberty in girls, reduced fertility in women, premature labor and many other health issues.
BPA enters human body through exposure to plastics such as bottled drinks and cleaning products. It has been found in significant amounts in “at-risk” groups such as pregnant women’s placentas and growing fetuses. A study conducted last year found that 96% of women in the U.S have BPA in their bodies.
Bottled drinks also contain phthalates, which are commonly used in the U.S. to make plastics such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible. Phthalates are also endocrine-disrupting chemicals that have been linked to a wide range of developmental and reproductive effects, including reduced sperm count, testicular abnormality and tumors, and gender development issues. The FDA does not regulate phthalates or class them as a health hazard due to the supposedly minute amounts present in plastic bottles. This decision does not take into account the significant presence of plastics in the average American citizen’s daily life, the fact that phthalate concentration increases the longer a plastic water bottle is stored, or the fact that a bottled drink that is exposed to heat causes accelerated leaching of harmful plastic chemicals into the drink.
In addition to the negative impacts of BPA and phthalates on human health there are also growing concerns regarding carcinogens and microbial contaminants that have been found in test samples of bottled water.
We humans are sometimes lazy and do not care enough for the living world around us. We drink our beverages from plastic bottles, and then for no apparent reason, decide to throw it out of the window. Before even knowing it, our nature now looks like some plastic septic pool dump.
Not a nice view to see. Take a look… Do a search on google for “Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch.
But that’s not the worst. The worst thing is that all those plastic bottles, plastic bags et cetera is left there out in the open, and 80% of it is NON-BIODEGRADABLE Plastics. What?
Also, Plastic bottle tops are currently not recyclable, and as with plastic bags they often end up at the bottom of the ocean, and in the stomachs of a variety of animal species that mistake them for food. One albatross that was recently found dead on a Hawaiian island had a stomach full of 119 bottle caps.
Marine life falls prey to this problem on a daily basis. A sperm whale was found dead on a North American beach recently with a plastic gallon bottle which had gummed up its small intestine. The animal’s body was full of plastic material including other plastic bottles, bottle caps and plastic bags. Plastic bottles are made from a petroleum product known as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and they require huge amounts of fossil fuels to both make and transport them. In the 1970s the U.S. was the world’s largest exporter of oil, but now it is the largest importer. *If you fill a plastic bottle with liquid so that it is 25% full, that’s roughly how much oil it took to make the bottle. For a single-use disposable item, that’s a lot.*
It’s harder to recycle plastic bottles than you think. Of the mass numbers of plastic bottles consumed throughout the world, most of them are not recycled because only certain types of plastic bottles can be recycled by certain municipalities. They either end up lying stagnant in landfills, leaching dangerous chemicals into the ground, or they infiltrate our streets as litter. They are found on sidewalks, in parks, front yards and rivers, and even if you chop them into tiny pieces they still take more than a human lifetime to decompose. Though a combination of light rays and/or water help to degrade the bottles, tiny pieces of plastic still remain in the soil, and precisely those tiny pieces that remain in the soil contain all those chemicals, and sooner or later, they will eventually end up in stomach of some marine animal or shorebirds!
What about the air?
What do water bottles have to do with air quality? Water bottles are manufactured in petrochemical plants that release harmful air contaminants. Various citizens interviewed who live near these plants reported numerous health problems, such as respiratory issues, that they believe were caused by the air pollutants emitting from the plants.
How Much do We Use?
In the case of bottled water, the plastic-making process requires over two gallons of water for the purification process of every gallon of water. That’s a lot of waste! Despite recycling infrastructure that exists in order to facilitate the recycling of these bottles, according to the Container Recycling Institute, 86% of plastic water bottles used in the US become garbage that ends up in landfills throughout the country. Considering that approximately 60 million plastic water bottles are used every day in the US, we can assume that nearly 18,834,000,000 end up in the landfill each year. Each bottle can take up to 700 years to decompose. And that is only in the US. It goes on. According to National Geographic, if we take into consideration the energy required to manufacture, transport and dispose of plastic water bottles in the United States, between 15-17 million barrels of oil (enough to fuel more than 100,000 cars for an entire year) are used each year in order to meet consumer demands. To help put that into perspective, a study performed by the Pacific Institute in California suggests that producing bottled water (including all stages from manufacturing the plastic to chilling the bottles for use) takes approximately 2000 times the energy required to produce tap water.
If this is not an alarming situation with alarming numbers, then we all should ask ourself one question – Do I want to live in that kind of world, where animal species get sick, where humans get sicker ( from fetuses in mother’s stomachs to infants, teenagers, middle – aged people to the people in third age of life ) and where our entire environment gets polluted more and more by the second?
What are solutions to those issues? Are there any? If there are any, what can we do about it?
Of course there is a solution. Well, as a matter of fact, there are many solutions.
We can invest in a BPA-free reusable bottle, carry a refillable, BPA-free bottle when you are on the go, and refill it whenever the option arises. But above all – reduce. Think of the whales and albatrosses and buy fewer plastic products in general, particularly when you know that you are unable to recycle them. It will probably have a much larger and positive impact than we all think.
Plastic water bottles can be recycled. Recycled plastic bottles will save the energy, the resources, the time and what is the most important – it will save our health, thus decreasing the necessity of producing more plastic bottles ”from scratch”. But besides that, we can offer up water from a filter! If you’re a vendor in the food industry, try supplying customers with the choice of filtered water from the tap. Yes, you might lose a dollar or two in sales, but you will gain a large clientele who prefer to source their food from vendors who offer free, and chemical free, water on the side. And that is high quality service for the long term!
Bring your own (refillable) bottle with you to work! Lugging around a light-weight refillable water bottle not only ensures that you can remain hydrated all day without having to purchase water, it also allows you to make a visible commitment to reducing landfill contributions and protect yourself from harmful chemicals! Take a stand, and make the commitment!
Last but not the least, if You are using water purification systems or water filtration systems, DO NOT use those R/o systems ( a.k.a. Reverse Osmose systems ).
Why? Click here to Find out More!