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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

'PET Peeve' - Disposable Plastic Bottles

Roderick Chen / All Canada Photo / Universal Images Group

PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate, a type of plastic which can be identified by the recyclable symbol number '1'. It is typically used for single-use disposable water bottles which are extremely commonplace in many parts of the world such as North America.

Because PET plastic bottles are not only convenient but also recyclable, it can cause a consumer of water to question the validity of the claim that they are not 'eco-friendly'. However, there are problems associated with their use for ecosystems which also includes humans.

The Issues

Disposable water bottles generate massive amounts of waste every day around the world. In fact, the project 'Watershed' by MSLK, a graphic design firm in New York, estimates that about 1500 plastic bottles are used per second in the United States alone. It would take a lot of energy every day to recycle all these water bottles into other plastic products, however, although they can be recycled, only about 23% of the bottles used in the United States actually are recycled.

PET plastic will take a very long time to decompose, at an estimate of 700 years. Most plastic bottles are not recycled but instead sent to ever-growing landfills which have other associated issues such as land space, effects on local communities, and leaching into water sources.

Many plastic water bottles unintentionally end up polluting oceans. There is a landfill, similar to a plastic island, in the Pacific Ocean estimated to be about the size of Texas, composed mostly of plastic water bottles that the current accumulated. Small plastics such as the bottle caps (which cannot be recycled) also often end up harming wildlife directly, as animals such as sea birds accidentally ingest them or feed them to their young, mistaking it for food.

The solution lies in using reusable water bottles that can be refilled with tap water.

5 Reasons to Use Reusable Water Bottles (Instead of PET Plastic)

1. Reduce waste produced from thousands of water bottles disposed daily, and reduce the energy required to process the ones that get recycled.
2. Save money spent on hundreds of plastic water bottles by making the one-time purchase of a reusable one.
3. Prevent pollution and plastic bottles from accidentally ending up in bodies of water, and bottle caps from being ingested by wildlife.
4. Don’t support water being taken from communities to be used in bottled water sold to other places where water is already available through a tap. Some large bottling companies even continue to take water during periods of drought when water is scarce.
5. Avoid ingesting antimony. Although levels are low, it can leach into water from PET bottles increasing over time in storage, and can be easily avoided.

At a first glance one plastic water bottle is easy to dismiss as a small thing that has no real significance in the grand scheme of things, but they accumulate with such mass amounts. A person living in America may use an average of 167 disposable water bottles a year, but could replace all of them with just one reusable one, which is a small change that can go a long way.
If you are looking for information on what type of reusable bottle best fits your purposes, feel free to take a look at this older post that compares two different types of reusable water bottles.
Sources
banthebottle.net
http://www.factsonpet.com/frequently-asked-questions/
http://stopnestlewaters.org/about
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17396641
http://www.treehugger.com/clean-water/the-us-consumes-1500-plastic-water-bottles-every-second-a-fact-by-watershed.html
http://action.sumofus.org/a/nestle-water-ontario/4/2/?sub=homepage

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