Moving Beyond Plastic

“If you believe in something, you have to persist and you have to have a thick skin.” said Jean Hill in her 2010 interview with the New York Times.  In the spring of the same year, at a town meeting, she proposed the ban of selling single-serving bottled water in Concord, Massachusetts. The bottled water industry was not pleased but Ms. Hill, now 86, did not give up and with the help of local activists put the ban in place. There were many odds against Ms. Hill. Tom Lauria, a spokesman for International Bottled Water Association questioned Ms. Hill actions in an interview with the New York Times, “Some people in the industry kind of respect her because of her age and her vision, but we believe that vision is distorted. There are far worse products to pick on than water.” Although there are many things that are bad for us and the environment that could be considered worse than plastic bottles, bottled water has significant environmental and health effects that cannot be ignored.

In an article on the website One Green Planet, the environmental impacts of plastic water bottles are told to us straight. First of all, many plastic bottle caps, like plastic bags, end up in the stomachs of a variety of animals as they are not as easy to recycle as plastic bottles and are often mistaken for food. It takes large amounts of fossil fuels to transport and to produce plastic bottles, in this case a sort of petroleum called polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Filling a plastic bottle with 25% liquid will show you roughly how much oil it took to make the water bottle and then transport it into your hands. In our day and age it seems as if recycling is as easy as ever, but many plastic bottles are still not recycled and end up significantly polluting our environment, like bodies of water. It takes hundreds, even thousands of years for a plastic bottle to decompose fully. It also takes over two gallons of water just to make one gallon of water in a plastic bottle.

One Green Planet also mentions the human health hazards of plastic bottles.  Many plastic bottles still contain BPA, this is the chemical that makes plastic hard and clear. This chemical is linked to things like early puberty in girls, reduced fertility in women, cancer, neurological difficulties, premature labor and defects in newborn babies - to give just a few examples. On about.com, EarthTalk writes about the potential dangers of reusing plastic water bottles.  We think we are doing something good for the environment but when we reused plastic bottles but the chances of dangerous chemicals like BPA leaking into your water and harming us are dangerously higher than when we first bought the bottle.

By: Liise-Lotte Vilimaa, EDN Intern