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The Alarming, Overlooked Issue of Plastic Water Bottles
Every second in America, over 1000 bottles of water are opened, and over 85% of those bottles are not recycled. This brings the problem of one of the most neglected issues not just in America, but in the world. But before these bottles are even opened, they contribute to the progression of climate change, and pollution, as fossil fuels are used in the production of plastic water bottles. And once they are opened and disposed of, most of them do not end up in a recycle bin or a trash can, but find their ways into the ocean where it can be detrimental to the oceanic ecosystem; and even if it does find its way into a landfill, the decomposition process only leads to harm to the environment further. This begs the question of: Why are water bottles in use, because as a society we need to prevent the further use of water bottles as the effects are destructive to the environment, and find alternative solutions.
Water bottles are one of the most common items in the world, with over one thousand water bottles being opened per second in the US alone, and over 60 million bottles being thrown away each day in the US. As a byproduct of this massive consumption, the production of water bottles is at an unsustainable rate, as it requires the burning of fossil fuels, a non-renewable resource. And when fossil fuels are burned, they release large amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the air which in turn causes global warming. But the consistent input of fossil fuels over the years have already raised the global temperature by 1℃, which seems insignificant, but at the rate that we are going at, the entire surface of ice on the “Arctic Ocean could disappear entirely by 2035,” and “until relatively recently, scientists didn’t think we would reach this point until 2050 at the earliest.” (The guardian) The urgency of this issue is often overlooked, but statistics show that the melting of the glaciers will happen as a result of the burning of fossil fuels; and could be destructive to our daily lives, as if the sea levels rise, coastal communities will be destroyed. Most of the burning of fossil fuels comes in the form of necessary means, whether its transportation, manufacturing, or military, but the formation of plastic water bottles is an unnecessary add to the global greenhouse gas count. And with limited benefits of plastic water bottles, and an array of negative effects, we must strive to exterminate plastic water bottles as the current rate that we are creating and consuming these bottles is unsustainable, unreasonable, and unrealistic if we want to make a good change on the Earth.
The problems with these plastic bottles do not end at their production, they continue on, until the day they are littered, decomposed, or in a few cases recycled, and even beyond. Because these bottles are very rarely disposed of in the manner that they were intended to, Americans alone dispose of “35 billion empty water bottles a year, of those, only 12 percent are recycled,”(health human life) and the rest often end up disrupting the environment, most notably in oceans. Once water bottles find their way into the ocean, the effects that they can have on the ecosystem is terrible. The main issue with plastic in the ocean is that they can get entangled with or interested by marine life which can lead to death by suffocation or starvation. This issue is very detrimental to our marine life, “over 1 million marine animals (including mammals, fish, sharks, turtles, and birds) are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean,” (conserve turtles) and “estimated that one in three marine mammals have been found caught up in some type of marine litter.” (azocleantech) But this issue has been going on for a long time now and it “is estimated that there are 100 million tons of plastic in oceans around the world.” (conserveturtles) and “is expected to nearly triple by 2040.” (Natural geographic) Plastic is killing our marine life, and we need to prevent the littering of water bottles and plastic as a whole.
In the event that plastic ends up in landfills, or ends up washed ashore on land it begins to decompose, whilst still harming the environment. Because plastic releases toxins and harmful chemicals into the environment while decomposing, “toxic bisphenol A (BPA) and PS oligomer into the water, causing additional pollution,” (Acs) and affecting the health of animals, as “the substances released from decomposing plastic are absorbed and could have adverse effects.” (Acs) But the bigger issue with the decomposing of plastic bottles is the long duration that it takes to decompose, as it takes “upwards of 450 years to decompose.” (GetCaddle) This allows for the consistent output of chemicals into the environment, disrupting our ecosystems, harming our animals and ourselves. This may seem significant, but it only gets worse, as plastic has “only really existed for the last 60-70 years;” this means that every single plastic bottle that has ever been drunk from, thrown away, or manufactured still exists today in landfill, other plastic, or the oceans. (wwf) Which means that every plastic bottle we use is only adding to that worldwide counter, and harming the environment at an exponential rate. This problem will only continue and worsen if left untouched and unchecked, as time is not on our side.
Every stage of the water bottle life harms the environment, and the life that presides in it, and with no reason for bottled water that outweighs the negative effects, an alternative needs to be found before the effects get worse. The most accessible and inexpensive solution to bottled water is to switch to tap water, as it can be found in everyone’s home. But the benefits don’t end there, plastic water bottles require “2,000 times the energy required to produce tap water,”(phys) making tap water easier and cheaper to produce. And is just as safe as bottled water. But this alone cannot solve the problem of the plastic water bottles, as tap water already exists, and not all people are going to switch to tap water solely based on the environment. Another alternative solution is a biodegradable water bottle. This has been a circulating idea for quite some time, but only recently has it been officially been labeled as in development. This has the potential to be the most effective solution to the water bottle crisis, but may be costly and take time to finally hit the marketplace. Until then, we are stuck with solutions that already exist, such as reusable water bottles and the usage of tap water to drink. Helping to promote these alternatives can be beneficial, along with the increase in water fountains, and recycle bins can all help until a more permanent and sustainable solution can be found.
With the crisis of water bottles continuing on, and only getting worse by every living moment, we need to stop the production, disposal, and usage of plastic bottles to save our global environment. And we need to find a solution to sustain the change away from the plastic bottles. With the negative effects of the usage of plastic bottles being so vast, and with minimalistic positives, it seems like there’s nothing stopping the abandoning of bottles. And with other controversial environmental issues going on in today’s, this is an issue that everyone can agree upon, as there are no negatives of switching from plastic bottles to a more sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative option. But despite the alternative option still in development, these issues are too big to be ignored by the people, and if we can all do our part to prevent the further damage of the plastic bottles, by recycling and preventing their use, we can fix and reverse the damage that has been accumulating throughout the 70 years of plastic use, and can help strive towards a world where the environment and all its inhabitants, live to benefit each other.
“74 SHOCKING Plastic Water Bottle Pollution Facts & Statistics (2020).” Jersey Island Holidays, 22 Mar. 2021, www.jerseyislandholidays.com/plastic-bottle-pollution-statistics.
“The Arctic Is in a Death Spiral. How Much Longer Will It Exist?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2020/oct/13/arctic-ice-melting-climate-change-global-warming
“How Long Does It Take Plastic to Decompose - Longer than You Think.” Consumer Data Marketplace, 22 Dec. 2020, www.getcaddle.com/blog/how-long-does-it-take-plastic-to-decompose-longer-than-you-think/
“Information About Sea Turtles: Threats from Marine Debris.” Sea Turtle Conservancy, www.conserveturtles.org/information-sea-turtles-threats-marine-debris/ #:~:text=The Problem: Over 1 million,in oceans around the world.
Parker, Laura. “Plastic Trash Flowing into the Seas Will Nearly Triple by 2040 without Drastic Action.” Science, National Geographic, 8 June 2021, www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/plastic-trash-in-seas-will-nearly-triple-by-2040-if-nothing-done
“Plastic Water Bottle Pollution: Where Do All the Bottles End Up?” Plastic Water Bottle Pollution: Where Do All The Bottles End Up? – Healthy Human, www.healthyhumanlife.com/blogs/news/plastic-water-bottle-pollution-plastic-bottles-end #:~:text=80 percent of plastic water bottles end up in landfills.&text=U.S. landfills are overflowing with more than 2 million tons,the way as it decomposes.
“Plastics in Oceans Decompose, Release Hazardous Chemicals, Surprising New Study Says.” American Chemical Society, www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsreleases/2009/august/plastics-in-oceans-decompose-release-hazardous-chemicals-surprising-new-study-says.html.
Zyga, Lisa. “How Much Energy Goes Into Making a Bottle of Water?” Phys.org, Phys.org, 17 Mar. 2009, www.phys.org/news/2009-03-energy-bottle.html.
“The Lifecycle of Plastics.” WWF, www.wwf.org.au/news/blogs/the-lifecycle-of-plastics