In recent years, single-use plastics have been under a lot of criticism, which has left many people wondering if plastic water bottles should be banned?
Plastic water bottles should be banned because they contribute to pollution, destroy habitat and marine life, are a waste of resources and money, are unnecessary, and contribute to climate change. However, they should not be banned in places that do not have access to clean water.
For the last half-century or so, we have watched single-use plastic items become a standard within our society. They were normalized and adopted by the public at large, as they are undeniably very convenient and practical in many ways. Unfortunately, years later, we have begun to see the real issue with using single-use items - with plastic water bottles being among the worst contributors to this issue. Our dependency on plastic water bottles has been taking a real toll on our environment and the harm that they cause is being felt by just about all life on the planet. They are the cause for so many environmental issues and we should begin phasing them out of our society so that we can mitigate the damaging effects of single-use plastics. Keep reading to learn more about why plastic water bottles should be banned.
After decades of working as an environmental scientist who studies the effects of human waste on the planet, I have had an extensive amount of experience researching the lifecycle of plastic water bottles. My research has led me to conclude that plastic water bottles should be banned based on how destructive they are and how many sustainable alternatives there are to their use.
Why Plastic Water Bottles Should Be Banned
In so many ways, banning plastic water bottles is kind of a no-brainer. How many times have you arrived at a beach or a beautiful park and seen a plastic water bottle lying around? This is becoming all too common of a sight around the world, which is plaguing the beauty of our planet and also its health.
Since the introduction of plastic water bottles, we have seen them wash up on shores around the world and the problem has become so out of hand that in future decades we will have more plastic waste (by weight) in the ocean than fish. This is the sad reality of our poor choices as human beings and our environment will pay the price more than anything else, which eventually trickles down to our own quality of life.
In recent years, however, a lot of the developing world has begun to wake up to the environmental dilemma that we find ourselves in. Conscientious consumerism and environmental values are becoming standardized and governments can no longer ignore the call for change, as we are running out of time to take action.
Banning plastic water bottles has been on the ballot for years but it has often failed to get the necessary momentum it needed to go through. Progressive cities such as San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento have taken matters into their own hands and have banned the sale of plastic water bottles altogether, which is a fantastic demonstration of activism and environmental leadership. The hope is that other cities, states, and nations will follow suit and weed out this destructive product completely. To help you understand why plastic water bottles should be banned further, we are going to take a closer look at this issue in more detail.
The bottom line is that plastic water bottles cause an immense amount of pollution around the world. They are found in all corners of our planet - in the environment, urban areas, and more than anywhere - our oceans. This level of pollution is something that will stay with us for thousands of years and the damaging effects of it will continue to be exacerbated until plastic water bottles are completely banned.
The pollution from plastic water bottles is particularly harmful because it is a pollutant item that dominates our planet’s waste. Water is the most essential resource that we have on our planet and each and every human being needs to have it regularly, which is why plastic water bottles are so misused in our society.
While every person does need to have adequate access to water on a regular basis, plastic water bottles are really not the answer to this problem. Our reliance on plastic water bottles has made our consumption of this single-use plastic so habitual that many people are contributing to pollution without the full comprehension of how much damage their actions are causing.
It is estimated that there are roughly 5.2 trillion pieces of plastic waste floating in our oceans, which amounts to over 250,000 tons. On a daily basis, it is estimated that there are just under 10 million pieces of plastic waste that enter our ocean. While not all of this waste directly comes from plastic water bottles, they are definitely among the top culprits of this scheme.
Marine Life Destruction
Plastic water bottles can be found virtually everywhere but the sad truth is that they rarely stay where they are first dropped. Like so much of our planet’s waste, most things end up finding their way into the ocean where they continue to wreak havoc on the environment and burden marine species around the globe.
Since the mainstream adoption of plastic water bottles in our society, we have seen some horrifying images and statistics of just how much damage these single-use plastics have on marine life. Unlike humans, marine animals have not been trained to differentiate between plastic water bottles and their normal food.
Many large fish species often mistake whole plastic water bottles as prey, which is why we can find traces of plastic water bottles in the digestion tracks of so many fish. However, these traces of plastic water bottles can also be found in so many other marine species as well.
While plastic water bottles do take thousands of years to break down, they will continue to fragment into smaller pieces much earlier than that - at which point they become microplastics. These microplastics often have some of the most damaging effects on marine life, as they are then consumed by all sorts of different species that depend on the ocean.
Turtles, fish, and even sea birds all fall victim to our dependancy on plastic water bottles, as they too consume fragments of this single-use plastic - either by mistaking it for food or accidentally. Experts are saying that there are as many as 100,000 different marine animals such as turtles and fish that are killed by plastics like this every year and as many as 1,000,000 sea birds. This is a tragic amount of life lost all for the convenience of a plastic water bottle.
In addition to the direct loss of marine life caused by plastic water bottles, they also negatively impact the habitat of these creatures. For years, we have watched an environmental catastrophe unfold before our eyes - the whitening and degradation of coral reefs. Coral reefs are one of the most vital habitats on our planet and they support countless marine species in the ocean. The whitening of these reefs results in marine species having no way to survive and it can destroy an entire ecosystem.
Scientists are finding that coral reefs that come into contact with plastic waste are far more likely to be jeopardized and damaged. Given that plastic water bottles are one of the most common waste products found floating in the ocean, it is evident that they are part of the destruction of coral reefs around the globe.
Made From Oil
In the modern age, we are seeing much more creative resources being used to make plastic water bottles such as plants and other organic materials. While these are a great alternative to our current plastic water bottles, the sad truth is that most of these single-use plastics are made from oil.
Fossil fuels are currently linked to so many environmental issues and what many people fail to recognize is that every time they buy a plastic water bottle, they are directly supporting oil and natural gas corporations.
These corporations and the fossil fuels that they produce are tied to both of the above-mentioned environmental issues and then some. Harvesting fossil fuels is not a clean business and oil spills are a common occurrence where ever there is drilling or a pipeline. This has led to the most destructive incidents of pollution that our planet has ever seen.
We have watched pipelines burst which leads to millions of gallons of oil being spilled out into our ocean. Events such as these are responsible for so much habitat destruction and the loss of life of plant and animal species. While some of the largest incidents of oil spills occurred out in the ocean, that is by no means to say that they do not happen on land.
While it is true that a lot of the oil and natural gas that these corporations produce go towards the auto industry and meeting our energy needs, it is also worth acknowledging that our plastic water bottle consumption is directly tied to all of the environmental disasters caused by fossil fuels. By banning plastic water bottles in our society, we will not only lower ower dependency on single-use plastics but we will also be taking a stand against the fossil fuel industry.
When the topic of banning plastic water bottles gets brought up, one of the most typical arguments that the opposition has is that they are recyclable. While you will find that most plastic water bottles have labels that indicate that they are indeed recyclable, the truth is that very few of them actually get recycled.
In the United States, a country where recycling is practiced more than almost any other nation on the planet, only about 12% of all plastic water bottles legitimately get recycled. This is such a minuscule amount compared to the total plastic water bottles that enter our waste system that the idea of recycling these single-use plastics is actually a complete farce.
One reason for this is that not all areas within the United States have adequate recycling systems set up within their waste management system, which results in most plastic water bottles ending up in landfills or in our environment like many other single-use plastics. Another reason is that many people simply do not care about recycling their waste properly and simply dispose of plastic water bottles in the same way that they do anything else.
On the other hand, many people that do use plastic water bottles dispose of them properly by throwing them into the recycling bin. The problem with this is that not everything that ends up in the recycling bin actually goes through the process as the consumer intended. In order for single-use plastics like plastic water bottles to be properly recycled, they need to meet the standards in place by the local waste management facility.
It is often the case that plastic water bottles that are in overly poor condition or have been contaminated beyond repair are worthless and are not suitable for recycling. In this situation (which is common), most of the ‘recycled’ waste simply ends up in a landfill. So, while plastic water bottle companies do claim their products are recyclable, the reality is that they rarely end up actually going through the process in the way that they should.
Microplastics & Your Health
As we mentioned above, plastic water bottles contribute to a lot of pollution. So much of this pollution comes not only from the bottle itself but from the microplastics that begin to break down from the initial product.
These microplastics are extremely harmful to the environment but they also cause damage to you and your health. What many people fail to recognize is that there are already microplastics floating in the water bottle before they even open it.
Tiny microscopic fragments of plastic are found in every single water bottle that you buy and when you consume this water, the microplastics enter and pass through your body. These plastic contents are full of chemicals that are ultimately harmful to you. While the number of microplastics found in plastic water bottles increases over time (about 3 to 6 months), it is very common for plastic water bottles to sit on the shelf for that long.
Given that water does not technically have an expiration date, most consumers do not check the labels of the water bottles when they purchase them. Bottles that are purchased that are over 6 months old contain a significant amount of these chemicals inside of them.
A common argument for people that are pro-plastic water bottles is that tap water contains harmful chemicals. The truth is that tap water contains half of the microplastics as plastic water bottles, which means that tap water is actually much healthier for you.
Waste Of Money
If there is one good reason to get rid of plastic water bottles it is that they are a complete and total waste of money. These days, even the cheapest plastic water bottle that you can buy at a convenience store is going to cost you at least $1. Given that the average person needs to drink at least 2 to 3 per day, you can expect most people that rely on plastic water bottles to be spending upwards of $3 or more on their water every day. If you calculate a person’s yearly expenses on plastic water bottles, the number can be $1,000 or more.
Now, this is roughly what is being spent by a consumer who drinks cheap, standard bottled water. Bottled water has become somewhat of a commodity and even a statement of class in recent years. So much so, that many people are opting for ‘high end’ or ‘premium’ bottled water. Certain brands have marketed themselves very well with the reputation that their water is better than normal water.
While the distillation process for premium water may be slightly different, the product is still virtually the same - water. It hydrates you, keeps you alive, and that is it. People that drink these brand-name waters are spending thousands of dollars per year on something that is practically free.
The water that comes out of our taps is not technically free, but it is so cheap that the amount of money that you spend on your water for personal consumption is so incredibly low. In the United States, the average cost of water that comes out of your tap is roughly 1 cent per gallon! This means that the amount that you would spend on a thousand gallons is barely $1.50!
Given that the average person does not even consume a gallon of water per day, you can expect your entire year’s drinking water needs to be met with just a single dollar - which is 1,000 times less than what a person who drinks water from plastic bottles pays.
Plastic water bottles should be banned because of how unnecessary they are. These single-use items are destructive in so many ways yet there are so many alternatives to them.
In the western world, we have so many different means of having access to water wherever we go. It is cheap, easy to get, and can be stored in so many other ways other than plastic water bottles.
In recent years, we have luckily been seeing a huge adoption of reusable water bottles around the United States and much of the western world. These reusable water bottles are a perfect alternative to plastic water bottles and they directly prove just how unnecessary it is to store water in a single-use plastic container.
Reusable water bottles are very affordable, much more durable, and, in so many ways, are even more convenient than plastic water bottles. Instead of stopping at the convenience store every day to buy a new plastic water bottle, you can easily fill up your reusable at home before you go out. In addition, reusable water bottles are made out of materials that do not contain any harmful chemicals like the ones used in plastic water bottles, which means that they are safer.
However, if you are not a fan of reusable water bottles, having access to water is made pretty easy just about everywhere that you go. Water fountains are common in schools, public parks, and even in most work environments, which makes plastic water bottles a convenience that is ultimately redundant.
Contribute To Climate Change
When it comes to environmental issues that are being addressed around the globe, climate change is by far the most immediate threat that all of humanity faces. In recent years, the evidence has never been more clear that this environmental issue is in full swing and that our lack of action is going to result in serious problems for our planet.
While the primary culprit and contributor to climate change is our fossil fuel consumption, we are beginning to understand that we need to approach climate change from all angles in order to effectively combat it, which is leading many experts to target plastic water bottles.
While a single plastic water bottle only produces 3 ozs of carbon dioxide, when we consider the billions of plastic water bottles that have been produced and continue to be produced, this number starts to become shockingly high.
We currently have a goal of reaching zero net carbon emissions by the year 2050, which is proving to be challenging to say the least. Governments around the world are scrambling to cut carbon emissions wherever they can but many are overlooking just how much of an impact plastic water bottles will have on this goal.
It is estimated that if we continue our consumption of plastic water bottles and single-use plastics in the same way that we are today that it will amount to more than 10% of all of our carbon dioxide emissions in the year 2050. This number would be the equivalent of more than 650 plants that are producing coal - which is one of the most harmful greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
Given that western nations around the globe are committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, it would be only logical to tackle climate change from each and every source possible. By eliminating single-use plastics such as plastic water bottles, we can greatly aid the fight against climate change.
Since plastic water bottles came on the scene, they have continuously been marketed as the safer alternative to tap water. Historically, the water that came out of taps had been known to be somewhat risky. In the past, our process for treating water was quite primitive and it undeniably was not the cleanest water.
However, these days, just about every county in the United States has extremely high standards for treating their local water supply, which results in tap water that is safe to drink right out of the faucet. Unfortunately, corporations that produce water bottles have capitalized on people’s fears and use this to misinform the public about the safety of the water that comes out of their taps.
This has led millions of Americans to believe that the water that they have at home is dangerous and can cause health problems. The truth is that there is actually no science behind a lot of these claims and that the tap water that you have at home is just as safe as any water bottle that you buy.
The standards for filtering and treating water in the United States are among the highest in the world and there is no reason that you need to spend thousands of dollars, contributing to pollution, climate change, habitat destruction, and the loss of marine life to drink water. The misinformation behind plastic water bottles is one of the primary reasons that all of the global, harmful effects of these single-use plastics are plaguing our planet.
Factors To Consider
Now that we have covered just how harmful plastic water bottles can be and why they should be banned. It is important to note that plastic water bottles do have their benefits and they can have a positive impact on human life around the globe.
In the western world, we have set up enough infrastructure to make water accessible to the general public. This implies that pretty much every person in the western world does have basic access to drinking water that is safe and more or less free (or affordable).
However, this is by no means the case for all countries on the planet and it is for these nations that plastic water bottles certainly do have their benefits. Given that we understand just how damaging plastic water bottles are to the planet and even our own health, it makes sense to begin phasing them out in western societies.
With that being said, plastic water bottles should not be banned on a global scale, as they still serve a purpose that can result in saving lives. To help you understand this further, we are going to list some of the benefits of plastic water bottles and why they should not be banned everywhere on the planet.
Many people on Earth still do not have access to clean and safe drinking water. In these areas/situations, having water bottles be available can result in saving countless lives.
Water bottles are relatively easy to store and transport. For developing nations and remote areas without access to clean and safe drinking water, it makes sense to have bottled water be transported effectively to these locations.
The technology behind plastics is reaching a new point in innovation - with some environmentally responsible companies producing their products out of materials that are capable of biodegrading within as little as 3 to 6 months. While this is not a reason to continue to use plastic water bottles if they are not necessary, this is a great alternative to our current approach (especially in developing nations that do not have recycling plants).
Ultimately, plastic water bottles are incredibly destructive and, more often than not, unnecessary, which means that they should be banned in most places. They should, however, continue to be used responsibly around the globe where they are legitimately needed. A great solution for this would be to begin using environmentally friendly materials so that they are less harmful to the health of our planet.
About THE AUTHOR
James Parker has a Masters degree in Sustainability with a focus on land management, permaculture and regenerative agriculture. He also has experience managing sustainability projects, and is passionate about conservation and sustainability.Read More About James Parker