Plastic Water Bottles in the Wild

By Beth Terry

Plastic Pollution Coalition is proud to join thousands of bloggers across the world for this year’s Blog Action Day, focusing on water issues. Our post is presented by PPC co-founder Lisa Kaas Boyle, Esq.

I took my regular hike in the Santa Monica Mountains today.  From the trail I can see the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles and the glittering water of Santa Monica Bay at the same time.  As it is October, the dry trees and brush are skeletal remains of their leafy summer forms.  This allows me to see clearly into the distance and to peak into secret woody tunnels on either side of the trail.  Sometimes I see a rabbit, often I see birds, but the biggest category revealed in the undergrowth today was not natural.   It was plastic.  Plastic bottles thrown to the side of the trail, probably when the foliage was dense enough to give them cover.

Who makes the effort to hike into nature but can’t be bothered to hold on to their trash until they get to a proper receptacle?  Who could throw plastic waste into the beautiful scenery they have come out to appreciate?  I don’t know, but I do know that I have never yet seen a reusable bottle on the forest floor, on the beach, or floating in the Bay.

Reusable water bottles, whether steel or glass, are designed to be used repeatedly.  They aren’t sold as cheap packaging meant for one use and disposal.  Reusable bottles are purchased by people who know the chemicals that leach out of plastic bottles are toxic to people.   Reusable bottles are purchased by people who know that plastic waste is an epidemic environmental problem that can’t be alleviated by the token “recycling” that misleads the public to believe that plastic containers are sustainable.   These educated consumers know that in reality the small percentage of plastic bottles that make it to recycling centers (1 out of every 6 bottles) are mostly down-cycled into fill and other low grade material that fails to stem the production of more and more plastic containers that will last forever in landfills or in our environment.

Americans buy more bottled water than any other nation in the world, adding 29 billion water bottles a year to a vast collection of permanent waste. Furthermore, it takes 17 million barrels of crude oil to make these bottles. Picture a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That’s about how much oil was used to produce the bottle. Now think about all the environmental costs of obtaining crude oil.  Should we be using oil to make containers that are used but once?

There is a great deal of education needed to show Americans that bottled water is unhealthy for people and the environment. There are many groups including PlasticPollutionCoalition.Org engaged in this mission.  Despite the overwhelming statistics, I have faith that our mission will be accomplished, and plastic bottles will be seen as dirty and dangerous like cigarettes with their carcinogens and plastic filters that never biodegrade.  We can all be part of the educational process through leading by example.  I will be hitting the trail again tomorrow with my reusable bottle in hand.