You grab a water bottle from the fridge and head to the treadmill. You see a group of suburban mothers dressed in the newest Lululemon yoga pants huddled together chatting. In their hands, they each hold plastic water bottles, though they’ve been doing more socializing than exercising. You reach the machine and start running. Finished, you struggle to chug down the water as you try to catch your breath. Then, you squeeze the bottle, creating that infamous, strident crackling because you are trying to drink the last few drops. And after about an hour, you’re done with the water bottle, whose production was far from a short process.
The birth of plastic bottles is in the ground. Oil rig workers drill for crude oil which makes its way to the refinery to be made into plastic pellets and then bottle pre-forms. More than 17 million barrels of oil are solely used for plastic bottle production each year. Then, there is the fuel used to transport the bottle pre-forms to the bottle factory. There, they are heated and shaped into bottles. Next, the bottles are brought to a bottling plant to be filled with water. Finally, the bottled water gets delivered to the store for consumers to buy.
The life of the bottle doesn’t end after you’ve drank all of the water. You either throw it on the ground out of laziness; you toss it in the trashcan and it ends up in a landfill, in the ocean, or on the beach; or you take the extra second to put it in the blue or green bin, otherwise known as the recycle bin, sitting right next to the trashcan. One out of every six bottles gets recycled.
Plastic water bottles compromise our lives and our wallets. The plastic contains a poisonous chemical called Biphenyl (BPA) which scientists have linked to cancer. BPA acts similar to estrogen, possibly causing breast cancer and altering testosterone production in males. It doesn’t take much exposure for it to affect you either. Contact with BPA more than once a week is harmful, according to the American Cancer Society. That’s once a week, not once a day.
Besides cancer, bottled water contributes to something scarier—more visits with the dentist and his or her screeching drill. Rather than use the so called “unsafe” tap water as the base for their babies’ formula, parents give their children fluoride-less bottled water. They deprive them of the necessary minerals for building strong teeth since tap water’s fluoride prevents tooth decay by about thirty percent.
For the right to throw out their bottle, Americans shell out more than 1,000 times more money as they would for tap water. The cost of the recommended eight glasses of water a day is about forty-nine cents per year. That same amount in bottled water is about $1,400. What a deal.
But unlike what advertisers claim, bottled water is no better than tap water. The deception threatens my liberty. Contrary to the water’s brand name or the illustration of a sparkling spring on the label, bottled water is not sans impurities. That’s because almost half of all bottled water is purified, municipal tap water. And “purified” is not a definite. Sometimes this “tap in a bottle” is further treated. Other times, it is not, but it never receives the same amount of regulation as the water coming directly from the faucet. Checking for bacterial contamination (including signs of fecal matter), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tests public water quality multiple times a day and publishes the results. On the other hand, bottled water is under the Food and Drug Administration’s jurisdiction. They administer weekly tests whose results are not available to the EPA or public. But that is an ideal situation. About seventy percent of bottled water does not cross state borders and, therefore, does not have to undergo any regulation. Imagine all of the crap— the literal crap, too, — that you have consumed.
But, we can put an end to this plastic phenomenon and pursue happiness. First, we can follow the lead of many colleges and cities like Concord, Mass. and San Francisco, Calif. who have begun to ban water bottles. Instead of plastic, we can purchase a reusable water bottle. Not only will it stay out of the ocean or endanger aquatic ecosystems, but the investment will save money in the long term. And if we don’t care for the taste of tap, although we don’t mind it when it comes out of a plastic bottle, there is always the option of bottles or pitchers with filters. No longer would America need to produce 29 billion water bottles a year.
As for the bottles that have already been made and recycled, most are “downcycled,” or made into products of lesser value. However, they could be transformed in a better way. For example, recycled plastic can be used to make new carpets or clothing, products that aren’t worth enough for people to recycle them after they are done using them. As a result, these products usually end up in the trash. But, if we “upcycled,” or reused material to create products of higher value, people would be less likely to throw these out. Upcycling would promote recycling’s frequency and improve our lives, liberty, and happiness.
I know of a few people who could spare their plastic water bottles for the cause.