By: Ariana Palmieri
Are plastic water bottles bad for the environment? This is a question we should contemplate. After all, almost every vending machine, kiosk, and grocery store sells water bottles. Every person reading this has used a plastic water bottle at some point. It’s safe to say we’re addicted to the stuff – but to what extent, and how is it affecting the planet? Well, the short explanation is yes – plastic water bottles are bad for the planet. But let's look at the reasons why together.
According to The Guardian, one million plastic water bottles are sold every minute globally. It’s hard to wrap your brain around that image. This would mean that every second, 20,000 bottles are being bought.
Worse yet, this number is predicted to jump another 20 percent by 2021, which isn’t so far away.
By the end of 2020, it’s estimated more than half a trillion plastic bottles will be sold.
The amount of plastic water bottles we are consuming is driven by our “on the go” culture. We’re so consumed by the convenience of water bottles we forget exactly how much we’re consuming.
Obviously, overconsumption isn’t good for the environment. Especially when you consider the other reasons plastic bottles hurt the environment. Paired together, it turns into an environmental crisis on scale with climate change.
Perhaps the worst part of plastic water bottles is how they’re made. Plastic bottles are commonly made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is petroleum based and non-renewable. It’s also unsustainable to harvest, considering we have to drill for oil to make the bottles.
Drilling for oil disturbs land and harms ecosystems. Lets not forget that dealing with oil can result in oil spills, which contaminate water and soil, sometimes even leading to devastating fires and explosions.
The carbon footprint of plastic is pretty high too: From the second raw materials are made into plastic to their disposal, they emit carb dioxide. In 2015, the emissions from plastic were nearly equal to 1.8 billion metric tons of CO2.
And, to make matters worse, the factories used to make plastic are run on fossil fuels. Not to mention so do the trucks used to transport our plastic water bottles to stores that sell them.
From beginning to end, plastic bottles are incredibly unsustainable in terms of production. Now just think about that, plus how many we go through in a minute's time.
Unfortunately, all those plastic bottles we drink per minute are unlikely to ever be recycled. Sadly, 91 percent of all plastic isn’t recycled. That means only 9 percent of plastic actually gets recycled.
The rest finds their way to landfills – or worse, our environment. In the environment, plastic bottles take 450 years to break down into tiny microplastic (that still pollutes and leaches toxins). In a landfill, plastic can take up to 1,000 years to break down.
When plastic water bottles end up in landfills, they still absorb and leach toxic chemicals as they break up into tiny polluted pieces. Plus, all landfills eventually leak. This means that runoff from landfills, carrying toxic chemicals from our waste, can easily end up in our waterways. This is toxic for wildlife, as well as us!
When plastic bottles end up in our environment, AKA our oceans, they pose another kind of threat entirely. It’s estimated there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. The plastic in the ocean poses a risk of being ingested by marine mammals, fish, and sea birds. Sadly, it’s not uncommon to see sea life found dead with significant amounts of plastic in their stomach.
The saddest part of all this is PET, what plastic bottles are made from, is considered highly recyclable. There are 7 main types of plastic, and PET is definitely one of the easier plastics to recycle.
That said, when plastic is actually recycled, it’s really downcycled into something of lesser quality. It can never become the same item more than once. This means, eventually, it will become obsolete and unrecyclable.
Point is, plastic is forever and we need to start treating it that way, instead of making single-use plastic like water bottles.
Now that we know why plastic water bottles are bad for the environment, it’s time to look at solutions. Lets ditch single use bottled water for good!
Here’s how to break free of plastic water bottles:
Will you ditch plastic water bottles with us? Be sure to share this article to spread the word!