Have you ever thought about what happens after you throw your plastic water bottle in the recycling bin? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t, but unless you work at a recycling plant, you may not know how involved the process of recycling a plastic water bottle is. It is hard to imagine how our own individual actions can affect others on an environmental and global scale. In the end we are just 1 in 7 billion, right? So our daily decisions will hardly make a difference, right? Wrong.
I’m going to lay it all out as simply as possible, using the example of water bottles.
If you’ve wandered around the main floor of SUB, then you may have noticed their fancy new water fountains. (They might be a few years old now, but they’re still new-ish.) These special water fountains are designed to fill-up your reusable water bottles, and they actually do it well. Since being installed 493251* reusable bottles have been filled up, which means that 493251 water bottles have actually been saved from our processing systems (which come with their own added environmental impacts) and our everyday environment. Another way to think about it – we (the students) ultimately paid for the water bottle fountains in SUB anyway, so we might as well get our money’s worth.
*Number as of October 9, 2015.
2) Global Sustainability:
The world drinks over $100 billion worth of bottled water each year. That’s roughly 50 billion bottles. In addition, 17 million barrels of oil are used in the production of disposable water bottles annually, in other words, enough to fuel 1 million cars for an entire year. Producing bottled water also requires up to 2000 times the energy cost of producing tap water. And guess what, it takes 3 times the amount of water to produce a bottle as it does to fill it. If that’s not ironic, I don’t know what is.
You may be wondering where the recycling process falls into all of this. Well, some bottles are recycled, a whopping 20% in fact, while the other 80% end up in landfills, on the streets and in waterways where they ooze toxic chemicals and finally decompose…after 450 years. And guess what? Every square mile of the ocean has more than 46000 pieces of plastic in it. So be careful next time you go scuba diving. I for one don’t want to get hit in the face by a toxin-oozing Aquafina bottle… and don’t really want my great-great-great-(maybe another great) grandchildren to get hit by the same bottle turned plastic fossil 300 years from now.
3) Human Rights:
Doesn’t simply existing as a human being mean that you should have the right to water? I mean, we as human beings need water to survive, so why are 1 billion people around the world still struggling to gain access to drinkable water? Something that many people don’t think about is that buying bottled water supports companies that are putting a price on a basic life necessity, making clean water inaccessible to those who can’t afford it. By refusing to buy bottled water, you are taking a step towards preventing the privatization and commodification of water resources, and instead are helping to promote public water works to ensure that our public water remains accountable to all.
4) Its Not As Clean As You Think
Don’t be fooled by the picture on the label of the serene mountain range reflecting on a pristine lake. Bottled water samples can contain phthalates, mold, microbes, benzene, trihalomethanes, even arsenic…so yes, a lot of bad stuff. Plastic bottles can also leach phthalates (chemicals used in plastics) into the water, which can cause complications with hormones for those who consume it. The bottles labeled #1 are the worst.
This is where the importance of Edmonton’s water cleaning systems comes into play. This calls to mind a fieldtrip I went on in high school to a water cleaning facility. There I discovered that lab technicians perform hundreds of water quality tests a day to ensure that our tap water is clean and safe over and above their very impressive water quality reports. You can access more information here.
5) Glorified Tap Water: You save A LOT of Money. SCORE!!
Up to 40% of bottled water comes from municipal water systems AKA tap water but minus the filtration mentioned above…and with a price tag. I don’t know about you but choosing whether to pay for water that has been sloshed under some UV rays when I could just walk over to the nearest fountain in SUB isn’t a tough decision for me to make personally, especially if tap water costs, on average $0.002/Gallon instead of $7.50/Gallon (when in individual 500mL bottles). Just imagine, if all of the water you used around the house were bottled water, your monthly water bill would cost around $9000!!
6) Values and Interests:
By using a reusable water bottle, I’m able to send a visual cue to all those nearby that I value reducing my carbon footprint. Plus, I can pick out a bottle that has a design that reflects my personal style (which can be handy when trying to tell my water bottle apart from my friends…so, it’s healthier because there’s less risk of accidentally grabbing someone else’s bottle and having to experience back-wash *shudder*). And as I’ve shared in an earlier post, I’m usually that classmate that distracts you with food in class… I don’t need to be that classmate who also attracts your side eye because of my drink wear choices.
So, those are my reasons for not buying bottled water. And yes, I would encourage you to do the same. So, think outside the bottle! Make life choices that are not only beneficial to your own health…and wallet, but also have a positive environmental, economical, and social impact on the rest of the world.
Also, it's Sustainability Awareness Week 2015! So, let's all be a little more sustainability friendly and aware this week... and then every week after too.
Niabi is a third year student just starting a BA in English with a Spanish Minor. She’s a relentless optimist, hazardously curious, and tends to laugh a lot (her friends would say that she has a juvenile sense of humour). When not spending money she doesn’t have on clothes, or jamming out to Reggaeton, you can find her in a movie theatre, reading a book that involves sword fighting and dragons.