A Plastic Bottle Is Not an Accessory You Want to Sport this Summer
A massive amount of plastic bottles find their way into our oceans every year, endangering the entire ecosystem. If you already have a reusable water bottle at home—here’s why now is the time to start using it.
During summer we know it’s important to rehydrate, so we drink a lot of water. We can only guess this means the consumption of single-use PET bottles is shooting through the roof this time of year. One new bottle for every time you’re thirsty pretty soon adds up to a lot. Many people would probably just throw empty bottles in a bin somewhere if they’re not at home, which is more convenient of coarse then taking them to a recycling station. What we don’t think about though, is that a PET bottle thrown in the trash won’t be recycled, meaning we’re wasting the planet’s resources—for what, really?
Already 10 years ago, we spent about 100 billion dollars on bottled water globally every year, this while hundreds of millions of people don’t even have access to clean water. That’s money completely wasted. Then there’s the environmental cost that comes with producing virgin plastic bottles; sourcing the fossil fuel oil, filling them up, transporting and cooling. We haven’t found an updated account for the carbon footprint today, but in 2007 the bottles produced just in America stood for over 2.5 million tons of the manmade carbon dioxide.
In countries like Sweden, where we have clean tap water that tastes just as good as bottled water, we don’t have any reason to buy single-use PET bottles, at all. The fact that there are 10 or more brands of bottled water in store today is completely insane if you think about it—we, of all people, need it the least. Even in places where water doesn’t taste as good but is safe to drink, a filter-can will solve this “problem” easily. That said, what’s our excuse?
Speaking of Sweden—apparently we’re among the top recyclers in the world when it comes to PET bottles. Out of the 600 million plastic bottles sold here every year, 73-92% are recycled. In many other countries, poor waste management is a huge problem and throwaway plastics, like recyclable plastic bottles, are therefore becoming landfill or being illegally dumped in nature. As a result, millions of tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year—that’s about a truckload every minute—endangering the environment and our life on this planet.
Have you ever heard of vortexes? That’s the name of five gigantic, slow moving whirlpools in our oceans that’s been formed by the ocean currents and where the plastic waste collects. Most of the plastic is kept in the vortexes; some visible on the surface and a lot hidden below, residing on the ocean floor. Another big part washes onto our coastlines and beaches. As the sunlight photodegrades (not the same as biodegrading) plastic into small, toxic pieces, this plastic will also end up in aquatic animals and sea birds, damaging their inner organs as they mistake the fragments for food. As you can imagine, this will at some point end up at your plate.
No doubt this needs to stop. Not only do we have to limit plastic consumption in any way we can, we also have to come up with better alternatives. Naturally, this is not only up to us as individuals, though we play a big part, but a joint responsibility we share with businesses and governments. What if global companies like Coca Cola, that is responsible for about a sixth of the 600 billion throwaway bottles that are produced every year, would start taking some real responsibility. Only using recycled plastic for their bottles for example would be a start.
We do need to tackle this problem at it’s source, and to quote Greenpeace: “Think about it like this: if your bath was overflowing, your priority would be to turn off the taps—you wouldn’t first start mopping up the excess water”. Well, the bathroom floor, a.k.a. our oceans, defiantly needs to be mopped. Let’s hope we can also stop the plastic from overflowing.
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