Have you ever stopped to wonder how plastic affects the ocean or how it disrupts the ecosystem in general? Why plastic bottles are bad for the environment and how bad, exactly, are they In fact, have you had questions like:
- Is there such a thing as environmentally-friendly plastic?
- Can all plastic be recycled?
- Is recycling as effective as espoused?
- What happens if you don’t recycle it?
Year after year, our planet suffers due to tons of discarded plastic bottles and other containers, and we don’t seem to do anything to stop it. It can be confusing at first glance, especially since recycling is advertised throughout all forms of media.
Why Are Plastic Bottles Bad for the Environment?
Here’s where we should start:
- The average human consumes 730 liters of water per year, resulting in 15.3 kilograms of plastic waste.
- About 335 metric tons of plastic¹ were produced in 2016 alone.
- One million plastic bottles per minute² are purchased at a global level, which amounts to a yearly total of 525.7 billion.
- Americans purchase 50 billion plastic bottles each year, and only 23% are recycled³.
- Half a million straws4 are used daily in the world or 182.5 million per year.
- Global consumption of disposable cups reached 500 billion per year5. A total of 16 billion of them are coffee cups.
- 8 million tons of plastic6 are discarded in the ocean every year.
- 100.7 billion plastic beverage bottles were commercialized in the United States in 2014, and 57% of them7 were plastic water bottles. This amounts to 315 bottles per person in the United States in 2014.
- The bottled water industry sold 18.5 billion dollars8 worth of plastic water bottles in 2017. The number for 2016 was situated at 16 billion dollars9.
- One million seabirds and 100,000 fish, sea mammals, and turtles die due to plastic pollution.
“One million seabirds and 100,000 fish, sea, mammals, and turtles die every year due to plastic pollution.”
What Kind of Plastic Are Water Bottles Made of?
As you may very well know by now, plastic comes in more than one variety, depending on its structure and purpose. Bottles are commonly manufactured using polyethylene terephthalate10, often abbreviated as either PET or PETE. It is part of the polymer family of polyester, as it is a thermoplastic polymer that is both weightless and sturdy at the same time.
Just like other types of plastic, PET is obtained from petroleum hydrocarbon via a chemical reaction11 between purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and ethylene glycol (EG). The former is a xylene-derived crystalline solid, while the latter consists of a colorless liquid resulting from ethylene. The two are heated together with catalysts to produce polyethylene terephthalate.
But how are plastic bottles made? The resulting PET comes in the form of a molten and thick mass that is then solidified or spun into fibers. This is how it becomes the plastic bottles we all know and use way too often, unfortunately. Of course, the industrial means of production has many more stages, but this is the basic procedure behind it.
What Do the Recycling Numbers Mean on Plastic Bottles?
The recycling numbers on plastic containers are part of the ASTM International Resin Identification Coding System12, or RIC for short, developed in 1988 by the Society of the Plastic Industry. The organization is now known as the Plastic Industry Association. The American Society for Testing and Materials has taken over its administration since.
Their function is to identify the type of resin each plastic product is made from so that the recycling process is facilitated overall. There are seven codes in total, as follows:
- 1 – Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This resin identification code is the one most frequently encountered on plastic water bottles. It is also widespread in the case of soft drinks, sports drinks, juice, condiments such as ketchup or mayonnaise, and even other foodstuffs, i.e. jam, jelly, and salad dressing.
- 2 – High-density polyethylene (HDPE). The second type of plastic known as HDPE is considered low-hazard, which is why it is used in the bottling of milk, as well as some water and juice bottles. Cleaning supplies and shampoos also use it in their packaging. Grocery bags and cereal box liners are also made of HDPE.
- 3 – Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Items marked with recycling number three are manufactured with polyvinyl chloride, a type of plastic present in pipes and flooring more often than not. However, many household items and materials also contain it. Examples include tablecloths, shrink wrap, toys, medication blister packs, and deli meat packets. Regrettably, PVC contains a toxic phthalate known as DEHP that has been known to cause health issues for humans and animals alike13 when the rate of exposure is high.
- 4 – Low-density polyethylene (LDPE). Considered a low-hazard plastic product, LDPE has a resin identification code of four. It is generally employed in the making of bread bags, garbage bags, produce packets, six-pack rings, and beverage cups.
- 5 – Polypropylene (PP). Products such as food containers, auto parts, and industrial fibers are made with grade-five plastic. PP-derived food containers include a deli and takeout packaging, and yogurt cups as well. Boxes or bottles that contain medications are also produced with polypropylene.
- 6 – Polystyrene (PS). Commonly known as Styrofoam, polystyrene has a resin identification code of six. Cafeteria trays, plastic plates and utensils, and other similar items are produced from it. Its widespread use in the food and water industry is problematic, as demonstrated by a 2007 study14 which attests that toxic compound styrene leaches into the contents of the packaging after a one-year storage period. High temperatures speed up the process.
- 7 – Other plastics. The seventh and final plastic recycling number stands for all the other types of plastic not mentioned above. The list includes, but is not limited to, nylon, acrylic, polycarbonate, and polylactic acid. Products manufactured from a combination of plastic materials also fall into this category.
Is Bottled Water Safe?
Did you know that 93% of bottled water contains microplastic particles? This was uncovered during an extensive recent study15 published in September 2018 with the aid of Nile Red tagging. The final results were established after eliminating contamination rates that occurred in the lab. An average of 10.4 microplastic particles was present per liter of water.
Polypropylene was the most common detected polymer within the investigation, with a frequency rate of 54%. This has been demonstrated to match the plastic used to manufacture bottle caps. The research was conducted on 259 individual bottles purchased from 11 brands across 27 lots in total. The bottles were acquired in nine countries at a total of 19 locations.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that plastic is, at its core, unsafe. Harmful chemicals are being eliminated from its structure as technology progresses and awareness of the topic rises. Furthermore, microparticles are more dangerous to marine animals than humans (but more on that later).
Still, we should let go of the myth that bottled water is safer than tap water once and for all. As explained by Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist Gina Solomon, M.D.16, the Food and Drug Administration’s regulations and tests for bottled water are far laxer than those the Environmental Protection Agency imposes on running water.
Of course, problems can occur with either variety. The mass recall that took place on the bottled water market in 2015 due to E. coliinfestation17 is one example on one hand. On the other hand, the notorious Flint water crisis18 comes to mind. Still, the fact that drinking bottled water is good for your health is a fiction that harms the environment.
Can water go bad? Considering that it’s an inorganic substance, the short answer would be “no”, or at least not in the traditional sense.
Does Water Go Bad in Plastic Bottles?
It’s safe to assume that most of us have wondered why water bottles have an expiration date on them at least once until now. Can water go bad? Considering the fact that it’s an inorganic substance, the short answer would be ‘no’, or at least not in the traditional sense of the phrase.
The decay of organic matter19 is caused by heterotrophic organisms such as bacteria and fungi, as well as some saprophytic plants and lower animal species. These break down the molecules in the once-living tissue for nutrition purposes. Their main targets are represented by proteins, polysaccharides, nucleic acids, and lipids.
Water is formed solely from hydrogen and oxygen molecules, which aren’t affected by such processes. However, according to Johns Hopkins University Water Institute director Kellogg Schwab, Ph.D., leaving an open container out for more than 12 hours will cause the liquid to turn flat and taste a bit weird20.
This happens because carbon dioxide interacts with the H2O, altering its pH slightly as time goes by. In addition to this, drinking it from the same container over the course of a few weeks means that the bacteria in your mouth will get into it. Things are even worse when you share the bottle with someone else.
Nevertheless, this is far from being a health concern. People nowadays aren’t worried about the water itself going bad, but the plastic bottle it comes in. It is now common knowledge that the longer a liquid spends inside a polycarbonate container, the more chemicals leach into it. But is that really so? Is reusing plastic bottles out of the question?
Realistically speaking, most households probably don’t store water bottles for years on end in the sunlight so that the plastic they are made of starts to go bad. Therefore, while it is indeed true that the material can spoil over the course of time, it isn’t common for this to happen under regular circumstances.
“Are some varieties of plastic safer than others? The unfortunate answer is YES.”
What Plastic Bottles Are Safe to Drink From?
Are some varieties of plastic safer than others? The unfortunate answer is yes. There are various man-made chemicals that go into the manufacturing process of PET, and by far the most dreaded is bisphenol-A. Contact with hot liquids releases it, and a 2008 study21 has classified it as a dangerous endocrine inhibitor that has the ability to affect human health negatively.
This is one of the main dangers of plastic water bottles, and what happens when plastic water bottles get hot. Therefore, BPA-free plastic bottles are definitely a better alternative. Some of them are also reusable, as will be discussed in a later section of this article.
Nevertheless, it’s important to do your research before purchasing one. Consider that the threat for our planet is still there, and be aware of the fact that some other harmful compound might have made its way into the mix.
Why Are Plastic Water Bottles Bad for the Environment – Together with Other Plastic Products?
1. Impact on Human Health
Did you ever think about how much plastic we inhale on a daily basis? Water bottles might be one of the main sources of microplastic ingestion discussed by the scientific community, but those particles float through the air we breathe as well.
A study published in February 201822 on the topic of how airborne micro and nano-plastic particles impact human health documented multiple outcomes. First of all, physical damage is one potential issue, as is chemical contamination via the infamous leaching we’ve discussed above. In addition to this, microplastics can also carry pathogens, thus amplifying infection risks.
The food we ingest is another source of plastic contamination, especially if it comes from aquatic environments. A 2017 study conducted in China23 revealed that plastic pollution is widespread among both freshwater and saltwater fish. However, the particles were mostly present in the gastrointestinal tract, which isn’t usually destined for human consumption.
Cultured bivalves24 such as mussels and oysters are also affected by this. While the rate at which humans ingest the micro and nanoparticles within them is largely unknown, the scientific community still perceives this as a potential risk posed by plastic on human health.
In a nutshell, these results might be negligible when we stop and take a look at the bigger picture. Biomagnification is what the world should be concerned about when it comes to plastic ingestion. The term refers to the process through which harmful compounds such as pesticides or pollutants intensify in concentration as it travels up the food chain.
Larger animals eat numerous smaller ones, which are themselves contaminated with plastic particles. By the time they arrive at us, absorption can become considerable. This affects not only the humans who consume them but also the wildlife itself. We will explore this issue in-depth in the following segment of the article.
2. Impact on Wildlife
Why are plastic bottles bad for the environment? And how does plastic, in general, affect the environment? As opposed to humans, wildlife is affected by plastic on multiple levels. In the case of microparticles, ingestion is the most notable problem. The process of biomagnification mentioned above is a principal concern, but so are the direct effects plastic has on the health and development of several species.
For instance, a study from 201625 demonstrated that the involuntary consumption of PVC particles impairs the metabolic rate of Asian green mussels, as well as affects their chances of survival. The Calanus helgolandicus marine copepod species’ wellbeing is impacted in a similar manner. What is more, its fecundity and reproduction are also affected negatively26.
Langoustines, a type of lobster that is popular among seafood lovers, suffer from diminished growth and development27 due to plastic ingestion. The nutrition of crabs, another species fit for human consumption, is also impacted by this. Plastic fibers cause the little guys to stop eating properly, which depletes their energy stores28 and creates an overall imbalance.
These are just a few examples of how the ingestion of microplastic and nano plastic particles affects wildlife from within. However, polymers also have an external influence on animals, marine or otherwise. Not only is trash starting to invade their natural habitats, but entanglement is also a common problem nowadays.
How Much Plastic Ends Up in our Waters?
How much plastic is in the ocean? Determining the exact quantity that ends up in our waters is next to impossible. Not only does the debris travel with the current, but it also gets shredded into pieces over time.
For the sake of taking a look at the bigger picture, University of Georgia engineering professor Jenna Jambeck gave a rough estimate back in 2015.
According to her approximation, between 5.3 and 14 million tons float around coastal regions every year29. An article posted by Global News in June 2018 mentioned an average annual input of 8 million which is predicted to double by 202530. Another way to look at it is by considering the garbage patches that have formed in our planet’s oceans over time.
Currents pull plastic and other pieces of trash in the five main gyres31, which are slow-moving whirlpools that facilitate the circulation of ocean water across the globe. But in spite of their beneficial role, they also attract garbage to their center, which then forms the aforementioned garbage patches. Five of them exist in total, each one with its corresponding gyre.
They are located in the North Atlantic Ocean, the South Atlantic Ocean, the North Pacific Ocean, the South Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean respectively. The former is the largest in size out of the five, but this is definitely not a compliment or achievement. It measures 1.6 million square kilometers, which is three times the size of France. Let that sink in for a moment.
How Does Plastic Affect Our Waters and Marine Life?
How do plastic water bottles affect the ocean? The unfortunate reality is that more than 800 marine species are affected by plastic debris. In fact, 44% of seabirds and 40% of aquatic mammals suffer as a consequence of ingesting discarded polymer items that have made their way into the planetary ocean.
Sea turtles, whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions are just a few of the living beings that suffer due to this widespread type of pollution32. Statistics presented at the United Nations Ocean Conference in 2017 attested that one million seabirds and 100,000 turtles, sea mammals, and fish die every year as a result of plastic remains permeating their ecosystem at alarming rates33.
In addition to this, the abandoned fishing gear that makes up 10% of marine litter34 contributes to the statistic by facilitating ‘ghost fishing’. This phenomenon refers to marine creatures becoming entangled in the nets, with an average of 11 large whales and 32,000 other marine animals becoming trapped inside between 2002 and 2012.
How Long Does It Take for Plastic to Biodegrade?
How long does plastic take to decompose? Well, plastic items biodegrade at varying rates. It takes 450 years on average for the common plastic bottle to decompose in the environment, which is the same as a disposable diaper. Styrofoam buoys and cups disintegrate in 50 to 80 years, while plastic bags takes just 10 to 20 years to complete the same process.
Still, this is by no means a short period of time. Fishing lines are by far the most problematic on the list, as they decompose in as much as 600 years, if not more. Considering how they are more often than not discarded in the ocean once they become damaged, it’s easy to see why. Other items, such as photodegradable beverage holder rings, perish in less than a year.
It is important to note at this point that plastic debris which finds its way into the water never biodegrades fully. It breaks down gradually into increasingly smaller pieces, leaving behind micro and nanoparticles that infest ocean waters and are eaten by marine life. This goes to show just how rapidly polymers are taking over the world, even when we think they’re not.
How Are Plastic Bottles Recycled?
Did you ever stop and wonder what happens to plastic bottles after they are thrown into their designated bins? As detailed by The Atlantic35, the containers then enter an intricate global network that handles their processing, reshaping, and reselling.
There are six essential steps that go into this, and they are all explained below.
- Collecting. Plastic bottles that have been disposed of in the appropriate recycling bin are collected by a specialized service that mitigates the process.
- Sorting. At the facility, the plastic bottles are sorted depending on a wide spectrum of factors. Some establishments categorize them according to materials, others decide by color, and so on.
- Cleaning. The bottles are thoroughly washed and rinsed in order to remove all impurities and non-plastic materials. This prepares them for processing.
- Granulating. Plastic bottles are shredded and resized into granules. This makes reshaping and transporting them easier.
- Separating. The resulting particles are then analyzed depending on various features. Their density, air classification, melting point, and color are determined. Then, they are separated into different categories depending on these key traits.
- Compounding. Particles from the same category are melted and molded together into pellets that will be used in the manufacturing of new items in the future.
There is a common understanding that plastic products can only be recycled once or twice before they lose their properties. In fact, only 10% of recycled plastic has been recycled more than once up to this date. In this way, our society can justify the gigantic amount of virgin bottles and other containers that are produced every year.
However, recent findings confirm that some types of plastic can be recycled countless times through chemical methods36. In fact, some newer polymer materials can be processed back to their raw states, then reshaped into virgin plastic products. To put it briefly, we have the means to achieve progress, all that’s left is for us to want it.
What Are Plastic Bottles Recycled Into?
What happens to recycled plastic once it leaves our homes? Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t used solely for the manufacturing of other bottles. In fact, the fashion industry relies more and more on this material, which is an integral part of various clothing items. Other fields can make use of it as well. Thus, plastic bottles can be made into a variety of other products, such as:
- fleece jackets;
- bottle caps;
- and bottles.
However, only 9% of the plastic produced since the 1950s onward has been recycled so far37. This means that a whopping 91% of the entire quantity is still polluting our world. The actual quantity is so immense, a landfill the size of Manhattan would be the sole space able to contain it. Unfortunately, most of it is floating around in the ocean as we speak.
In addition to this, almost no plastic bottles38 are recycled into new ones. Just 7% of the total bottles produced by Coca-Cola are made using second-hand materials, while the number for Nestlé Waters North America lies at a meager 6%. PepsiCo refused to answer the question entirely. And the issue doesn’t stop here either.
A report published by Greenpeace39 uncovered that the six largest beverage companies apart from Coca-Cola employ recycled plastic in the manufacturing process of new soft drink bottles at a rate of 6.6%. Thus, even though we have the means to consume polymers more responsibly, we seem to fail to do so at every step along the way.
Benefits of Recycling Plastic Bottles
1. Preserves Energy More Efficiently
The mass production of plastic products is an energy-hungry procedure. It consumes more fuel and electricity than recycling does, especially when considering how many bottles are produced on a daily basis. In fact, our planet’s population buys a million plastic bottles per minute. This amounts to a staggering 525.6 billion per year.
But how many plastic bottles are recycled each year? While Americans alone purchase over 50 billion units every year, only 23% of them are recycled. Do the math, and the final number will be of roughly 11 billion. It might seem colossal, but it fades when compared to the amounts that are left in landfills and oceans.
This is why even a smaller scale endeavor can make a difference. For example, statistics gathered as a result of Stanford University’s recycling program40 have shown that their reprocessing of plastic, as well as paper, glass, and other materials preserved 567,3014 gallons of gasoline or 12,131 barrels of oil, depending on how you look at it.
This represents more than enough energy to power 613 households for one entire year. If a small-scale project can make such a difference, imagine what would happen if we all came together for this cause. In fact, the same article mentions that one ton of recycled plastic saves 5,774 kWh of energy a year. Just let that number sink in for a bit.
2. Uses Fewer Natural Resources
Plastic production doesn’t consume only energy in its raw form, but also the natural resources that are necessary to produce it. These come in the form of gasoline, oil, or natural gases. As mentioned above, just one recycling program saved a considerable amount. By adopting bottle recycling at a larger scale, the numbers could be even more significant.
Why is it important to recycle plastic bottles? Contrary to popular belief, our planet’s natural resources aren’t unlimited. They will become depleted if we continue abusing them at such a rapid pace, which is why action is necessary. Recycling plastic bottles is an important first step towards this. In this way, we might be able to prolong Earth’s lifespan and preserve its wellbeing.
3. Diminishes Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The electricity and natural gas employed in the manufacturing process of plastic bottles release several greenhouse gases. These emissions are categorized as either direct or indirect, depending on their source. Direct greenhouse gas emissions originate in fuel combustion, while their indirect counterparts result from the fuel that generates electricity in the facility.
According to the Natural Resource Department of the Government of Canada, there are three greenhouse gases that are created by the production of plastic bottles41. They are represented by carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, with the former being the most widespread. However, this isn’t the only issue at hand.
A 2018 study42 by researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa has uncovered another facet to the issue. The degrading of plastics also releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, namely methane and ethylene. This happens when the material is exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods of time, which isn’t at all uncommon in a landfill. Therefore, recycling is efficient in this respect on two separate fronts.
5. Keeps Excessive Waste Out of Landfills
The Stanford University statistics cited above uncovered that one ton of recycled plastic salvages 30 cubic yards of landfill space yearly. That is the rough equivalent of 28 cubic meters. Taking a look at the other reusable materials presented in the study reveals that repurposing plastic is by far the most efficient way to rid our planet of excessive waste.
6. Helps Our Global Economy Develop
Did you know that going the environmentally friendly route can actually help our global economy become stronger? A survey conducted by the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance in 2005 discovered that recycling is a valuable tool for economic development43, as it creates more jobs and a new industry altogether.
At the time that the research was conducted, 14,000 people worked in recycling in North Carolina alone. The 2016 Recycling Economic Information report44 established that the sector provided 2.5 million Americans with jobs and contributed with 6.7 billion dollars in tax revenue and 88.9 billion dollars in wages.
What Can We Do to Reduce Plastic Bottle Waste?
Plastic beverage bottles and their caps make up almost 30% of the plastic waste in our planet’s oceans. Just consider how many plastic bottles are used each year. If a person consumes the recommended amount of water per day (2L), that means 42 grams of plastic (1.48 ounces)/day45. This amounts to 365 bottles of 2L/person/year.
Drawing the line, this represents a total of 15.3 kilograms (33.069 pounds) of plastic/person/year. The average human lifespan expectancy is around 70 years46. As babies and toddlers, we don’t really drink that much water. After the age of 5, however, we start drinking at least 1L of water per day.
This means that the average person would generate around 900 kg (1984 pounds) of plastic waste during their lifetime only from drinking bottled water. The solution here is thus simple, and it is embodied by reusable bottles. Made from sustainable materials, reusable bottles are a great way to carry beverages around without contributing to the destruction of the environment.
Travel cups provide similar benefits, and they are ideal for coffee or tea. Plus, many coffee shops around the world actually offer discounts to a patron that brings their own reusable cups. In this way, you will play your part in saving the planet and get a markdown for it too.
Is There Any Issue With Recycling Plastic?
Unsurprisingly, the recycling of plastic is more difficult than advertised. Although corporations and media giants would lead you to believe that recycling is a simple matter, a tremendous amount of plastic nonetheless ends up in landfills.
The reasons for this are multifold. One prominent reason is that you cannot recycle different plastics for the risk of contaminating a whole batch. A single plastic bag that was produced in a different manner left in a heap of other bags could make recycling either of them an almost impossible venture.
This is further compounded by the fact that a lot of plastic bags have been dyed or colored. The dissolution of the bags would lead to the coloring seeping into the final product, which contaminates any attempt at cohesively recovering raw materials.
Therefore, recycling is a matter of very carefully separating the plastics, which requires manpower, time, and thus money. This is another reason why recycling isn’t as viable as we are led to believe sometimes: it is expensive, and leaving it out to rot in a huge landfill is far more profitable than actually getting rid of it.
REUSABLE BOTTLES vs. PLASTIC BOTTLES
- Leach fewer or no chemicals at all. Reusable water bottles are made from materials that leach fewer chemicals compared to traditional plastic, such as BPA-free plastic or metals. Moreover, glass bottles do not leach at all, and they don’t leave a specific taste behind either.
- Do not contribute to pollution. Due to their refillable nature, the bottles can be used for prolonged periods of time. Thus, you will be going through a considerably lower number of them per year. In fact, a high-quality container can actually last you the entire 365 days, provided you don’t break or damage it in any way.
- Do not increase the amount of waste in landfills. The relation between reusable bottles and better landfill space maintenance functions is similarly to that between them and pollution. Because you don’t use nearly as many every year, fewer get discarded. But how much plastic is saved by using reusable water bottles? As discussed above, the number is around 15.3 kilograms per year or 1,176 plastic bottles.
- Protect wildlife and the environment. Because reusable materials are minimally polluting and non-invasive, they do not harm wildlife and the ecosystem. Drinking from a glass or stainless steel bottle means the chances of a marine creature ingesting bits of it are significantly lower.
- Save you money in the long run. Truth be told, drinking water can get pretty expensive, especially when you buy one two-liter bottle every day. When you put this information into perspective, refilling your own container with filtered tap water is a lot more advantageous. Furthermore, it’s healthy too.
- Contaminate your drinking water with microparticles. Plastic has been demonstrated to leach micro and nanoparticles, especially with the passage of time. This can become a serious health concern, especially for some consumers that want nothing but the best quality drinking water for themselves and their loved ones.
- Pollute the ecosystem with garbage and greenhouse gases. Cities are littered with plastic bottles and their caps, especially in areas that have a lot of foot traffic from either tourists or locals. This sadly isn’t the only form of pollution they cause either. Both the manufacturing and decomposition processes such containers go through release alarming amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Overcrowd landfills with plastic waste. The landfills of our planet are becoming cramped, and plastic bottles definitely carry part of the blame for it. In addition to this, many of them are discarded haphazardly, ending up in oceans. Once there, they contribute to the expansion of giant islands of trash that take their toll on marine life every day.
- Harm animals and their habitat in various ways. Plastic has a negative impact on our environment and all the living beings that exist in it. Aquatic lifeforms are particularly affected by this type of debris, either indirectly through ingestion, or directly via entanglement and other injuries.
- Accrue to considerable expenses over time. Who knew hydration could be expensive? In 2017, the bottled water industry generated sales of 18.5 billion dollars47. This represented an 8.8% increase from the numbers reported in 2016. What is more, one gallon of water costs 1.27 dollars on average, as detailed by the International Bottled Water Association48. Tap water averages 0.003 dollars per gallon, which makes its bottled counterpart 300 times costlier.
5 Different Types of Reusable Water Bottles & Their Advantages
1. BPA-Free Plastic Bottles
The discussion on how to reuse plastic bottles is an ample one, but at the end of the day, BPA-free alternatives are the most suitable solution. But what BPA is in plastic bottles exactly? Short for bisphenol-A, BPA is a chemical that is added to various polycarbonate blends to create a stronger and more durable product49.
Unfortunately, distress occurs when the body comes in contact with it in higher doses. BPA mimics the function and structure of the hormone estrogen, binding to its receptors and creating an imbalance in the body. Thus, if you are in the market for a reusable container, ensure that you purchase one without this chemical in it.
2. Glass Bottles
At the end of the day, BPA-free plastic is still plastic. For an alternative that is healthier and more eco-friendly, why not go for a glass bottle instead? Nowadays, you don’t even have to order one online. More and more companies commercialize bottled water in glass containers, so once you buy one you can refill it to your heart’s desire.
Glass as a material has many advantages. For one, it always keeps the liquid inside it tasting fresh, which is a huge plus. In addition to this, it can be used for prolonged periods of time. However, you won’t be able to freeze water in it. What is more, it is breakable as well, which can turn it into a hazard when you’re on the go.
3. Stainless Steel Bottles
Stainless steel bottles are as durable and sustainable as glass without the breakability factor. This represents a definite benefit for the common consumer. Still, it is important to keep in mind that some people do notice a slight metal taste, especially if the liquid within the container has been there for hours on end. Thus, cleaning yours properly is a must.
4. Copper Bottles
Copper vessels have been used to store water for many centuries. It all dates back to the ancient Indian medical system of Ayurveda. Its texts advocate for the importance of this practice, claiming that it maintains the purity and balance of the liquid. A 2012 study backs up this information, demonstrating that the material kills diarrheagenic bacteria50.
However, water is traditionally stored overnight to achieve these benefits. It is important to note that leaving consumables for prolonged periods of time in a copper container can cause the metal to leach and become dangerous, especially in high temperature. However, this rarely happens in the case of water. Plus, the bottles look great.
5. Aluminum Bottles
A reusable aluminum bottle is an affordable and lightweight alternative to stainless steel. Unfortunately, these types of flasks are generally lined with plastic to prevent the metal from altering the taste or composition of the liquid within. Thus, BPA becomes a risk. What is more, it isn’t a suitable alternative for consumers who want to go plastic-free.
For better, safer, and eco-friendlier alternatives, you can also try getting filtered water bottles for your daily needs. Such bottles allow you to eliminate regular plastic bottles from your life, drink filtered, fresh tap water any time you need, travel to remote places, and spend time outdoors without wondering how to access clean safe water.
For the ones exploring the wilderness or traveling to places dealing with water scarcity or severe pollution problems, the solution is a portable water filter allowing them to drink water from almost any source.
Why Are Plastic Bottles Bad for the Environment?
Plastic bottles are becoming a more ominous threat to our environment with each day that passes. What is even more upsetting is that we have the means to stop this destruction, if only we’d stop for a moment and acknowledge them.
Next time you wonder why plastic bottles are bad for the environment – or someone else asks you this question – read this article and remember we have only one home and we litter it like crazy.
So don’t just go to the store and buy bottled water in bulk; stop for a moment and think about how this could be affecting the environment. The plastic you’re going to recycle isn’t going to end up where you hope it will, more often than not. It’s better to stop buying it altogether so that the consumption of bottled water decreases on a global scale.
We have a short timeframe for the planet. Let’s not waste it.
- Statista. Global plastic production from 1950 to 2016 (in million metric tons)* [https://www.statista.com/statistics/282732/global-production-of-plastics-since-1950/]
- Trevor Nace. 2017. We’re Now At A Million Plastic Bottles Per Minute – 91% Of Which Are Not Recycled [https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2017/07/26/million-plastic-bottles-minute-91-not-recycled/]
- Lorraine Chow. 2017. 1 Million Plastic Bottles Bought Every Minute, That’s Nearly 20,000 Every Second. [https://www.ecowatch.com/plastic-bottle-crisis-2450299465.html]
- National Park Service. The Be Straw Free Campaign [https://www.nps.gov/articles/straw-free.htm]
- Graham Readfearn. 2014. Global shot at a greener coffee cup. [https://www.studyinaustralia.gov.au/news/global-shot-at-a-greener-coffee-cup]
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