When I read 20,000 plastic bottles are used every second around the world, my stomach dropped. The costs associated with plastic use are as varied as the plastics themselves. These range from environmental costs, to health costs.
From an environmental standpoint, plastic is both dangerous and toxic; because once it is in the environment, it does not disappear or disintegrate. It is found in all reaches of the world, even the most remote.
Plastic byproducts are found in almost every species of the marine web including fish, whales, sea turtles, and even humans.
Some 8% of all the world’s oil goes to making plastic products. Plastic contributes to climate change, environmental degradation, and threatens the health of a wide array of fauna, globally. For more detail on some of the health repercussions of plastic byproducts, read my previous post: "Plastic: It's what's for dinner".
While health and environmental costs alone seem like worthy enough reasons to quit our plastic addiction, there is a third cost, one that many of us forget about.
The cost of the bottled water itself.
Tap water costs less than a penny per gallon. Yet, we have been "taught" to believe that water from a bottle, sometimes costing as much as $10 a gallon, is better for us, or has more or less of this mineral or that vitamin. In fact, most bottled water companies take municipal or spring water, bottle it up, and charge you more for that water, than you pay for a gallon of gas.
I don't know about you, but, that ALONE frustrates me!
I mean, think about it! You’re at a gas station, you want water: You see a 500-mL bottle for $1.49. It takes 8 of those bottles to equal 1-gallon of water. If you buy eight 500-mL bottles of water, you will pay almost $12!!
When I think of this cost, I think of all the people in the world who already struggle to make ends meet.
Bottled-water companies have come into developing countries, to "provide water" for the people. Nonprofits DO actually aid the people they have come to help. However, multilateral conglomerates, BIG beverage companies, still charge some the poorest people in the world exorbitant costs for water, soda, or other bottled beverage. It's extortion!
If these companies really wanted to do good, they would philanthropically provide water to these communities, in sustainable ways.
But, like most corporations, they are in the business to make money.
When you add up these costs, it definitely seems like eliminating plastic, and particularly plastic-beverage bottles from our lives is both prudent and necessary.
While visiting the beach this weekend, I happened upon the scene shown above. What looked like a beautiful beach from afar, turned out to be a beach overrun with people and plastic rubbish. In a matter of minutes, I picked up at least 20 pieces of plastic and threw them in the only receptacle on the beach.
Look, if 100% of plastic products were recycled or even recyclable this might be a different story.
However, only 9% of plastic is recycled, (at least in the United States).
So, what can you reasonably and feasibly do about this?
We all vote with our dollars. If we buy a reusable water bottle, and fill it with tap water then municipalities might be more inclined to install hydration stations, where you can refill your bottle.
In fact, Europe is pretty good about that already.
We can all refuse to use a straw at restaurants, and bring our own reusable coffee cup to coffee shops.
If we all start demanding that our favorite beverage stores use renewable products instead of plastic, they will begin to meet our demands.
We can buy and use “reusable” or mesh produce bags. We can demand better recycling stations in our cities and at grocery stores. By making recycling easier, an improved “default,” more people MIGHT actually start doing it!
If we all contact our elected officials, and demand that they support a ban on plastic goods, then perhaps we will see changes (though, I must add, with our current political climate, I don’t see this as a reality).
You can sign this petition I created.
Look, I understand the potential need for plastic-bottled water, in emergency cases. But, they SHOULD be relegated to emergencies, not every day use.
Most corporations are not in the business of protecting the environment and informing the public. Most corporations are in the business of making money; at the expense of the environment.
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