Every year, in the United States, we consume over 8.6 billion gallons of bottled water. That’s almost 70 billion individual bottles of water! Every year, we throw nearly 90 percent of those water bottles into the trash, and this is a GROWING problem!
Many of us use single-use plastics every day without even realizing it. We may use plastic-silverware wrapped in plastic, or we may drink a beverage using a plastic straw out of a plastic cup. We may stop at a coffee shop and walk out with a plastic-lidded coffee cup, or we may even buy a plastic water bottle that the cashier placed into a plastic bag, making it both convenient and easy to carry, and we frequently do these things without a second thought.
Sadly, we recycle only 9% of all the plastic products we ever use. Worse however, is that almost all of these plastic items, which we toss into the trash, are single-use plastics, designed to be used only once before they are thrown into the trash where they will persist in the environment for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, or more.
U.S. landfills overflow with more than 2 million tons of discarded plastic water bottles, (please bear in mind that an empty bottle weighs only an ounce or two); so, that is LOT of bottles.
Likely, each of us introduces at least one piece of plastic trash to the world each day, 365 days a year; and likely more if we reflect on our plastic use. Every day, I see people throw recyclables into the trash whether a plastic water bottle, coffee lid, or shopping bag.
There are uninhabited islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where plastics -- bottles, straws, pens, phones, lids, computers, or you name it “Rest in Peace,” but still wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems.
When plastics break down, they break down into small pieces called micro-plastics. Floating in the ocean, they look and may even smell like food. Marine animals from plankton, to fish, to whales, eat these plastics and absorb toxic chemical compounds into their fats where they accumulate. This means that the seafood you eat may contain plastic residues or other toxins, which are harmful to health and to ecosystems.
Plastics contribute to environmental degradation and to fossil-fuel use. That is because every piece of plastic comes from fossil fuels, which also are used in the manufacturing process.
Plastics also contribute to oceanic pollution, and our exposure to toxic chemicals, including carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting compounds.
Three-hundred million tons of plastic are manufactured every year, and at least eight million tons end up in the ocean every year.
This begs the question: What can I, just one person, do to help?
The answer is: A lot!
Some of things we can do to cut down on our plastic use are obvious, such as bringing your own reusable grocery bags to the store, or traveling with a reusable fork or spoon. Others may be as simple as bringing your own coffee mug with you to your local coffee shop or brewing your own at home, or using a reusable water bottle to fill with tap or filtered water from water fountains or hydration stations. Many college campuses and even airports have installed filtered-water hydration stations! In fact, the last time I flew through the Los Angeles International airport, several terminals had hydration stations. So, instead of buying a plastic bottle of water as I might have done in the past and which I saw several other people doing, I brought an empty, reusable water bottle with me and saved $3.49!
Did you know?
- Many bottled waters cost over $1.00 for just 16 ounces of water, and that so-called “premium” waters can cost $3.00 or more for the same amount? Airports, amusement parks, and hotels seem to charge the most for water! Since it is recommended to drink a two liters (64 ounces) of water each day for good health, you could spend between $4.00 and $12.00 each day to meet that recommendation. OR…You can bring your own reusable water bottle and fill up for free.
- By using a stainless-steel reusable water bottle, you significantly reduce your exposure to plastic- and petro-chemical compounds, which are very detrimental to your health, possibly even contributing to obesity and infertility? These are important issues, especially with the current costs of healthcare!
- You can protect your health and the environment all in one fell swoop with even this one simple change; and by incorporating some of the others listed above, you can do even more! It’s not that difficult!
I can tell you this, when I learned about the dangers of plastic pollution, and there are some great movies to demonstrate this (A Plastic Ocean and Plastic Paradise), I changed my habits immediately. I bought reusable, stainless-steel water bottles for every member of my family, I brewed my own coffee at home, I carried reusable grocery bags to the store, and even purchased reusable mesh bags for my fruits and vegetables. These are all doable things. These are all things that allow me to “Be the Change.”
We don’t inherit the Earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children. When I took my son to the beach, he asked why there was so much plastic thrown about. We discussed that it can end up in the ocean and harm animals and the environment. We discussed how we can each do better by packing our own reusable water bottles, and he became informed about the issue.
We, as consumers need to be informed. We vote with our wallets and we can challenge each other, organizations, and corporations to reduce the use of single-use plastics. We all need water for good health; but plastic water bottles endanger our health and the environment they spoil. Today, there are companies reaching out to consumers to increase awareness of these issues, empowering us to “Be the Change,” to help protect the environment and to do better for ourselves, our planet, and our children.