Plastic is one of the most revolutionary and influential materials on the planet. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, containers and packaging–including plastic bottles–make up the largest category of produced plastic products. While plastic bottles are convenient and hygienic, they’re also responsible for extensive resource depletion and environmental damage.
Being able to tote around a bottle of water or soda and discard it when it’s empty is undeniably convenient. Water fountains are occasionally soiled or in disrepair, and aren’t available anywhere, anytime. Reusable bottles can’t be tossed once they’re empty, and if lost, are expensive to replace. You can find any beverage you desire in a convenient plastic bottle, from water to chocolate milk to juice.
Plastic bottles are generally cleaner than reusable bottles. Because they’re intended for one-time use, they don’t need to be maintained or washed. Plastic water bottles can be reused, although they should be rinsed thoroughly between uses and shouldn’t be reused extensively, due to possible contamination and chemical exposure. Furthermore, the water inside plastic bottles is generally purified or filtered, so there’s less risk of ingesting toxins that may be found in tap water.
Each year, more than 26 billion plastic water bottles are thrown away, and of those, less than 15 percent are recycled. The bottles that aren’t recycled end up in landfills and don’t degrade, so they’re forever a part of landfills and ocean waste zones. According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, 30 million single-use plastic bottles end up in landfills or as litter every day.
Bad: Production Effects
The production of plastic bottles is incredibly taxing on resources, including water. Transporting and distributing water bottles also strains gas, oil and other natural resources. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, more than 800,000 metric tons of greenhouse gasses were released into the atmosphere in 2005 due to plastic bottle manufacturing.
References and ResourcesNubias Organics: Plastic Water Bottle Facts
DEC New York: Too Many Bottles--It's a Waste