Did you know that conventional plastic water bottles can take over 1,000 years to degenerate? Or that only around 20% of water bottles are actually put into the recycling bin? Plastic water bottles are one of the most common items found in homes, and they can come in packs of 16 to 24. Around 80% of these water bottles that are simply thrown into the trash can make up more than 2 million tons of waste. In addition, it takes 3 times the amount of water to create a water bottle than to fill it! Plastic water bottles are impractical to consumers, and have the same benefits as reusable bottles. There is, however, a recent invention that has made using a reusable bottle even easier. If you have been in a public school recently, you may have noticed the automatic water dispensers built into the walls.
Every time you fill up a reusable water bottle using one of these machines, it records the amount of water bottles it has saved since its installation. These dispensers can be found all over UVA. From the dormitories to the dining halls, these machines help students by quickly filling reusable water bottles with clean, filtered water. Without these machines, students would have to purchase water bottles either on grounds (for a higher price) or at local stores, which can be very inconvenient.
There are also economic benefits to this environmental friendly device. It requires almost 17 million barrels of oil to manufacture and transport the amount of water bottles to fulfill US demand. One popular brand, FIJI, has to have its water delivered from overseas! Delivering tons of “cleaner, tropical” water over the ocean to the US? Sound reasonable? Not at all. The oil used to provide plastic water bottles may also be imported from other countries or even used to help develop cleaner energy alternatives.
Check out this video explaining the life of a plastic water bottle!
So you may be asking, what happens to all of the plastic bottles that are simply thrown away? Well, because water bottles are not biodegradable, they can last for over 1,000 years in our environment. They can, however, break into smaller pieces, which would cause even a bigger problem for cleanup. It is estimated by the Ocean Conservatory that for every square mile of the ocean, there are 46,000 pieces of plastic shards. That number will only get higher if a new strategy is not developed to fight the massive demand for plastic bottles. With more plastic water bottles being produced and none degrading, the oceans will suffer from an increasing dump for plastic pieces. Not only will that pollute our oceans and damage our fragile ecosystems, large amounts of plastic water bottles can become a hazard for boats and divers.
“But, wait! Don’t water bottles have cleaner water?” No. There is a significant amount of evidence that prove against the theory that water bottled by large companies is cleaner than filtered or tap water. Although the FDA overlooks created regulations on bottled water and overlooks the process, it was labeled as “pitiful” by Erik Olson, a member of NRDC and water specialist. He noted that large bottling companies are only loosely tied to its regulations. There have been many cases where the chemicals that are supposed to “clean” the water have injured its consumers. For example, a man and a boy burned their throats after drinking water bottled by large companies that contained exceeded levels of ammonia. The chart below compares the difference between regulations on bottled water and tap water.
So get yourself a reusable water bottle! They are cheaper in the long run and can show off some pretty insane designs! These water dispensers are all over grounds too, so filling up your water bottle will be super easy. Best of all, you will be helping out our environment by preventing more and more plastic from polluting our earth. And if you have to drink from a plastic water bottle, remember to recycle!
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