Single use plastic bottles have become an almost natural day-to-day occurrence for everyone, with some people buying all their water in plastic bottles. Not only is this very wasteful, but it is very destructive.
15 million single use plastic bottles are bought in the UK per day….. and only 1 in 5 of those are recycled. This is despite recycling bins allocated to every household with collections regularly.
Bottled water is actually as expensive as petrol, and uses up precious oil resources making the plastic bottle, and pumping aquifer’s to fill the bottle. “162g of oil and seven litres of water are required to manufacture a single one litre volume disposable PET bottle and this amounts to the release of 100g of carbon dioxide (CO2) a major greenhouse gas (GHG)” (Nottingham Uni) Not only is it expensive to create, but it’s also expensive to recycle as each bottle has to be washed, melted down and re-molded.
“A 2l bottle of a well-known branded bottled water currently costs 84p. According to Thames Water, 2l of tap water costs less than 0.2p. Using these figures, the cost of bottled water is over 420 times tap water.Therefore, ditching a bottled water addiction over 25 years (with savings made at the average bank rate compounded annually) would represent a saving of £17,500.” (http://moneystepper.com/save-money/cost-of-bottled-water/)
Not only is it expensive, but it’s estimated that 30% of all bottled water sold in supermarkets in the UK is actually tap water! (this also occurs in other countries to about the same extent)
The most obvious issue with single use plastic bottles is that they do not decompose easily. It takes about 450 years for a plastic bottle to break down…. but this only means that the plastic has broken down into tiny pieces, not that the tiny pieces have broken down into elements. Little pieces of plastic still persist for millennia. It is estimated that in 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
Wildlife (both marine and terrestrial) are also at risk from plastic bottles as they ingest the plastic and become trapped in it. Birds can also become trapped with the bottle ring around their bill, preventing them from eating, and ultimately starving to death.
Once in the marine ecosystem, the plastic floats around with the current, eventually finding it’s way into gyres, forming marine garbage patches. “The Eastern Garbage Patch is an area 6 times the size of England, where plastic outweighs plankton by 6:1.” (Nottingham Uni).
Bisphenol A (BPA) is present in plastic bottles. Research has shown that BPA can leech into water carried in plastic bottles, especially when the plastic is heated up (i.e. washed, or in the sun).”BPA is one of a large number of substances that have the potential to interact with our hormone systems” (food.gov.uk). “BPA may mimic hormones and interfere with the endocrine system of glands, which release hormones around the body. Some scientists think that if it interferes with sex hormones, this could affect puberty or the menopause or cause cancers that are related to hormones.” (NHS) “A study in 2010 conducted by researchers in the US retrospectively assessed the association between urinary levels of BPA in 2,948 adults and their cardiovascular outcomes. It concluded that BPA exposure is “consistently associated with reported heart disease in the general adult population of the USA”.” (NHS)
U.S. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention in 2004 found BPA in 93% of urine samples taken from a group of 2,517 people. BPA levels in humans increase after just one week of drinking from plastic bottles.
Canada has already issued a full ban on BPA use, with Turkey and Sweden having a partial ban on the chemical.
Most plastics also contain chemical additives to make the plastic more pliable, or UV resistant which are harmful or untested.
Toxic chemicals in the plastics leach into the environment, which then accumulate and build up in animals (including those we eat).
A reusable water bottle is the most obvious alternative to single use plastic water bottles. Turn on the Tap campaign (run by Surfers Against Sewage and Clean Cornwall) in Cornwall is encouraging businesses to offer free water refills to people with reusable water bottles (with an online map showing where the nearest location is), and Surfers Against Sewage hope that this will be able to extend throughout the UK.
Other alternatives include buying cans, cartons or glass bottles (which are available for most fizzy drinks brands).