Why are reusable water bottles better for the environment?
There are lots of reasons why people drink bottled water, not least to stay hydrated, for convenience and for a supposedly purer taste. Unfortunately, this rise of drinking from disposable water bottles has led to an increase in plastic pollution around the world. This is why reusable water bottles are a much better alternative for the environment.
Here are some shocking statistics:
- In the US, 1,500 plastic water bottles are consumed every second.
- 50 billion bottles of water are purchased every year.
- 80% of these bottles end up in landfills.
- To produce one plastic water bottle uses up more water than it takes to fill the actual bottle.
- If you fill a bottle up to 25% full, that is how much oil it took to manufacture it.
So how exactly can reusable water bottles help the environment?
- They help to stop plastic pollution
- Are safer for humans
- They don’t end up being ingested by animals
1. Reusable water bottles stop pollution
Pollution from discarded water bottles affects our oceans, our wildlife and can have a devastating effect on the environment. They cause damage when they are being produced, and when they are discarded.
To make a plastic water bottle you need tons of fossil fuels. In fact, it takes 17 million barrels of oil to make one year’s supply of bottled water. Plastic water bottles are made using a petrol-type substance called polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET is harmful to humans. Manufacturing plastic bottles also release harmful toxins into the environment and use up valuable energy.
Despite recycling plants, 38 billion plastic bottles end up in landfills or in the ocean. This is because there are so many different kinds of plastic, and plastic can only be recycled with its own kind. Furthermore, certain types of plastic can only be recycled by certain recycling plants. When plastic ends up in landfills it begins to leach dangerous chemicals into the ground.
2. Reusable water bottles are better for humans
To make the plastic in water bottles clear and hard, manufacturers use a chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA). This chemical is a known endocrine disruptor, which means it can affect the reproductive systems. In fact, studies suggest that BPA is responsible for causing a complete sex reversal in fish.
BPA can leach into water or food from containers that are made with it. Therefore humans are ingesting BPA and there are concerns about the effects BPA has on the brain, thyroid and prostate glands, our reproductive system and foetuses. BPA is known to be able to cross the placental wall. When you consider that 96% of US women have BPA in their bodies, that is a significant concern.
Plastic bottles also contain chemicals called phthalates, which are used to make the plastic more flexible.
Phthalates have been linked to numerous health scares:
- Breast cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Development issues
- Fertility issues
- Reproductive issues
The problem is that government bodies do not class phthalates as a dangerous substance. They don’t even regulate them because we ingest such minute amounts. However, although this may be the case, an average person has significant contact with phthalates. For instance, research shows that the longer a plastic bottle is stored, the higher the phthalate concentration. It is possible then that we are ingesting far more phthalates than originally thought.
BPA and phthalates are not the only concern healthwise. Tests have shown there a disturbing amount of germs in bottled water. Bottled water is tested for microbes and bacteria 4 times less than tap water. Researchers from the Ccrest Labs in Canada found that 70% of bottled water contained high levels of bacteria. They also found that tap water had fewer bacteria than bottled water. In some cases, the bottled water had bacteria over one hundred times more than the permitted limit.
3. Reusable water bottles are better for animals
Plastic can take up to 1000 years to decompose but often ends up floating on the ocean, where they can have devastating effects on wildlife. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a colossal floating mass of plastic that currently measures three times the size of France. Wildlife often mistakes floating bits of plastic for food and ingest them, with dire consequences.
For example, sea turtles mistake floating plastic bags for jellies, and birds will often mistake plastic pellets for fish eggs. The birds bring the plastic back to their chicks who then die of ruptured stomachs. A dead albatross found on a Hawaiian island had 119 plastic bottle caps in its stomach. A dead sperm whale found on a North American beach not only had a body full of plastic, but the one-gallon bottle was found clogging up its small intestine.
Unfortunately, this is not the only floating garbage mass in our oceans. The Atlantic and Indian oceans have their own floating trash piles, and evidence suggests more areas are being affected.
Plastic pollution also leads to ‘dead zones’ where marine life is falling. The largest of these dead zones is the 5000sq miles of the Gulf of Mexico. In 2014 this area alone was said to be almost totally devoid of life. As well as this area, to date, there are 405 of these dead zone areas, where marine life is suffering.
Marine life can also get caught and drown in discarded plastic fishing nets. In really bad areas of pollution, the sheer volume of floating debris can affect the amount of sunlight reaching the depths of the ocean. This is where plankton and algae grow. Algae and plankton are essential food for larger marine creatures and if affected will disrupt the entire food cycle in our oceans.
Why are reusable water bottles are better for the environment?
The benefits of using reusable water bottles are obvious:
- There is less waste going into landfills and the ocean.
- Fewer pollutants and harmful chemicals entering the ground and atmosphere.
- Marine life is protected and allowed to flourish.
- Money and energy are saved for other important needs.
- Reusable water bottles can be recycled.
There are many alternatives to disposable water bottles, for instance, glass or stainless steel. Both types are far easier to recycle and cost less to produce.
So when you next feel thirsty and reach for bottled water, please consider the effects it will have on the environment. If we all switch to reusable water bottles we can protect, not just ourselves, but the world around us, and for generations to come.
By Janey D.