The water bottle industry: an industry that thrived on consumerism and exceeded the boundaries of luxury by becoming an essential item in an average person's life. Despite the fact that tap water is declared safe for consumption by the EPA, 1500 plastic water bottles are being used every second in the United States alone. These stats make the United States the biggest bottled water market in the world, strongly profiting the likes of Coke, Pepsi, and Nestle who own and commercialise some of the largest bottled water companies. However, this multimillion dollar industry does not come without a cost - a different type of cost that is unfortunately being paid for by the environment.
The good news is that recent years have seen a slow but significant turn away from plastics due to the awareness of its negative impact spreading amongst the general public. While the reduction of plastic bag usage has been holding the spotlight, plastic bottles play just as big of a role in this global situation. A few examples of how plastic water bottle usage is impacting the environment include: overflowing landfills, requiring high amounts of fossil fuel for production, and covering the ocean surface with plastic products. To assist you in making that final decision of quitting plastic bottles, here are some more details on the impacts plastic bottles are making on the environment.
The Process for Producing Plastic Water Bottles
The production of plastic water bottles requires up to 17 million barrels of oil each year. This amount of oil has the ability to maintain up to one million cars fueled for an entire year. The water bottle production process utilizes the petroleum product polyethylene terephthalate (PET), this product requires an extremely large amount of fossil fuel to both make and transport. Furthermore, the manufacturing of a water bottle requires three times the amount of water needed to fill it. That large amount of water becomes unusable and is wasted due to its exposure to chemicals during the production process. Additionally, when comparing the energy needed to manufacture a bottle of water to the energy needed for tap water, bottles require up to 2000 times more energy. When you look at how many bottles are manufactured, that much energy can possibly power up to 190,000 homes. To draw a clear and simple picture of just how many resources are being wasted, take a look at any one time use plastic bottle of water and imagine one fourth of it filled with oil. That is how much fossil fuel is required to produce it.
Where Do Plastic Water Bottles End Up?
In landfills, floating on oceans, or rivers and on sidewalks. It was approximated that 46,000 pieces of plastic trash are floating on the ocean per square mile. This plastic is killing animals, leaking chemicals and disrupting ecosystems. Moreover, sixty million plastic bottles are disposed of in one day in the Unites States alone, and eighty percent of those bottles end up overflowing landfills. Each bottle can take up to one thousand years to decompose, leaking dangerous and harmful chemicals during the process. Some toxins leaked could cause cancer and reproductive disabilities. The United States consumes twenty-five percent of the world's resources while comprising only five percent of its population, requiring a large amount of imported water. Importing waters from overseas requires up to 40,000 trucks for transportation and delivery in the United States. The energy and environmental impact of that alone is incredibly hazardous. An average person in the United States making the choice to use bottled water consumes 30 gallons of water a year and therefore, requires 90 gallons of manufacturing water a year. Unfortunately, the argument of recycling can only do so little for its case since only 12% out of the thirty-five billion bottles used in one year gets recycled, indicating that only half of what you place in a recycle bin actually gets recycled.
What You Can Do
Following a simple reduce, reuse, recycle, lifestyle does not only mean that you are actively saving the environment, it also means that you are benefiting yourself by possibly saving hundreds of dollars using reusable bottles or water fountains. Moreover, you can also go the extra mile to ensure that any plastic you happen to use is indeed being recycled. Additionally, it is crucial to learn to identify false advertising that is promising healthier or cleaner water by doing your own research and understanding the characteristics that make consumable water you can avoid falling victim to large organizational propaganda. Finally and most importantly, you can speak up and spread the word on just how much plastic bottled water is impacting the environment.