How much does a plastic bottle cost?
Most would say, "quite cheap". One use plastic bottles are less than half the price of a cup of coffee or tea, while the re-usable are certainly cheaper than their glass or steel alternatives. But, is it so? Are they really that cheap? Let's think again.
Remember the famous line from The Rhime of the Ancient Mariner; "Water water everywhere, not a single drop to drink"?. We'd like to change it to something that relates to our situation today, "Plastic, plastic everywhere, not a single drop to drink". That's right!
Our addiction to single-use or disposable plastic is drowning the planet in plastic pollution. Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once - and then thrown away. These figures are estimated to see a 20% rise by 2021. In other words, more than 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300 billion a decade ago, which is expected to reach 583.3 billion by 2021.
What happens after the bottles are thrown away?
After single-use, about 6 billion pounds of plastic bottles get thrown away every year, and only 30% of them are recycled, according to IBISWorld analyst Nate Gelman. Of that 30%, just one-fifth is processed to create fresh plastic bottles for use in food and beverage industries. We, therefore, produce about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, that is nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population!
Rivers carry plastic waste from deep inland to the sea, making them major contributors to ocean pollution. This visible trash is eventually broken down by sunlight, wind and waves to barely-visible bits known as the micro-plastics. Further, it takes between 100-1000 years for plastic to degrade, until which it stays buried in the natural reserves. A plastic bottle take 450 years!
In addition, for sea birds and larger marine creatures like turtles, dolphins and seals, the danger comes from being entangled in plastic bags and other debris or mistaking plastic for food. Turtles cannot distinguish between plastic bags and jellyfish, which can be part of their diet. Plastic bags, once consumed, cause internal blockages and usually result in death. Larger pieces of plastic can also damage the digestive systems of sea birds and whales and can be potentially fatal.
A study in the National Geographic suggests, that newborn fish are now feeding on micro-plastics. Fish provide critical protein to nearly three billion people and countless seabirds and other marine animals. But, fish stocks worldwide have fallen by half since 1970, largely due to overfishing, but pollution and waters warmed and acidified by climate change are having a growing impact. Another study by Mckinsey & Company concludes a report by saying that, if things don’t change by 2025, the plastic will outweigh fish entirely by 2050!
The effects of disposing of plastic are turning out to be catastrophic and impacting the environment and the delicate balance of life in the worst ways possible.
What can we do? Where do we start?
1. Replace the plastic bottles at home with stainless steel alternatives, or even earthen pots. Unlike plastic, both these materials have the ability to keep the temperature of liquids intact for longer.
2. Always carry a stainless steel bottle before you step out. If you've run out of water, instead of buying a plastic bottle, ask for a re-fill at the nearest cafe.
3. Do not dump the old plastic bottles in your daily trash that goes to the landfill. Send them for recycling or other processing units that work with plastic waste.
4. If you're thinking of recycled plastic bottles, here's another fact. The plastics in recyclable plastic water bottles are thought to be a health risk. Harmful chemicals are emitted from these bottles, and these chemicals might cause cancer.
To sum it up, every plastic bottle comes at the cost of marine life and pollution of water and health risks for human beings.
Is a plastic bottle really worth this much?
Small steps, big impact.
It All Starts With You!
Sources: UN Environment, #BeatPlasticPollution
National Geographic, Planet or Plastic?
Also Read: Washington Post, Plastic, metal or glass: What’s the best material for a reusable water bottle?