one less plastic bottle: save our earth
This is not an exaggeration either; while plastics have always seemed a miracle material, endlessly malleable, flexible and durable, the reality is that in our throwaway world, nobody ever thought to consider the entire lifecycle of costs — health, ecological and otherwise — associated with habitual, repeated use of these products.
With disposable plastic water bottles alone, the numbers boggle the mind…
- 1500 plastic water bottles are consumed EACH SECOND in the US. That’s 90,000 every minute, or 5,400,000 an hour! Worldwide, 50,000,000,000 (billion) water bottles are used every year, the vast majority of them not recycled.
- Bottled water alone produces 1.5 million tons of plastic waste each year. Worse yet, the Container Recycling Institute reports that 86% of these toxic bottles are not being recycled but thrown in dumps, where they will spend centuries leaching BPA, BPS, phthalates and other toxins into the groundwater.
- In total, 50 million bottles a day are being thrown away, an amount that, laid end to end, would stretch from San Francisco to New York City and back again. Every single day. By some estimates, 10% of this plastic — bottles, bags, containers — ends up in waterways, where it washes out to sea, forming massive floating garbage patches, the Pacific Ocean patch comprising an area twice the size of Texas! This floating trash devastates marine life, killing birds and fish that mistake it for food. Incineration is not a solution either; used bottles produce toxic chlorine gas and ash that contains heavy metals.
- Just to produce a year’s worth of plastic water bottles, 17 million barrels of oil are expended – enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year. Considerably more energy is wasted filling the water bottles, transporting them, cooling them, and then recycling or throwing them away, amounting to yet another 50 million barrels of oil wasted every year, according to the Earth Policy Institute. The Pacific Institute estimates the total amount of energy embedded in our use of bottled water may be considered equivalent to filling each plastic bottle one quarter full with oil.
- And bottled water is incredibly expensive, costing 1,000 times more than tap water. Drinking half a gallon of tap water a day costs only 49 cents per year! If you buy an expensive filter, one that also filters out fluoride, you might spend $10 for the entire year. Contrast that with bottled water, which can easily run you $1400 a year or more. Bottled water is no better either, with 47% of bottled water being just filtered tap water!
- Another way to look at the cost of bottled water: If you consider a typical $1.00 20-ounce bottled water, that water costs you $6.40 a gallon, (more than the cost of gasoline in the U.S.!) In contrast, most tap water costs less than 1 cent per gallon.
Plastic water bottles are just one subset, albeit a big one, of the hundreds of consumer food and beverage applications in which we find plastics. But the environmental toll is not the worst of it; next week, I will touch on the innumerable health hazards of all these plastics in our food and water supply.
Other great places you can find out more:
Flourish Online: What’s the Big Deal with Plastic Water Bottles?
TreeHugger.com: U.S. Consumes 1500 Plastic Water Bottles Every Second
PristinePlanet.com: How Many Plastic Water Bottles Are Thrown Away Every Day?
Pacific Institute: Bottled Water and Energy Fact Sheet
BanTheBottle.net: Bottled Water Facts
The Huffington Post: Plastic Water Bottles Causing Flood of Harm to Our Environment