By now, most of us have heard about the problems with plastic. It turns into microplastics that have contaminated just about everything, it kills wildlife, and its production creates harmful chemicals, among other things. Any effort to reduce plastic waste is a good effort. But many people wonder, is getting a reusable water bottle really worth it? Does a reusable water bottle really reduce plastic waste?
Does a Reusable Water Bottle Really Reduce Plastic Waste?
Plastic waste is a big problem. By weight, it’s about an 8-billion-ton-problem. And the problem is getting bigger every day; humans produce about 380 million tons of plastic waste annually. That’s about 95 tons of plastic spread over every square mile of the United States, every single year.
This number is hard to even imagine. It can be hard to imagine a solution as well. And it can seem like simply replacing plastic bottles with a reusable water bottle isn’t going to make a lot of difference, so why bother?
The plastic problem wasn’t created by one person, overnight. And the solution certainly won’t be that simple, either. Solving the plastic problem requires participation from multiple people and groups; the companies that produce raw plastic, the companies that turn raw plastic into products, the people who purchase the products, and governments worldwide who legislate safe and unsafe activities.
However, one thing is certain: if no one does anything about the plastic problem, it will just get worse. Getting a reusable water bottle is a great place to start reducing plastic waste.
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How Much Plastic Waste Does a Reusable Water Bottle Save?
A reusable water bottle can help reduce plastic waste. But how much plastic does a reusable water bottle actually save?
The answer to this question depends on how many plastic bottles you use. Maybe you use one plastic water bottle per day—you pick one up after working out at the gym, during your lunch break, or you buy a large pack at the store and use them at home. Consider the other types of plastic bottles you use as well, like soda bottles during lunch or juice bottles during breakfast. How many bottles does this add up to? Per day? Per week? Per month?
If you use one bottle a day, that’s 365 plastic bottles you’re saving with your reusable water bottle in a year! Even if you replace only two plastic water, juice, or cola bottles a week, you’ve saved about 104 bottles a year. Consider how much fossil fuels, chemical pollution, landfill space, and transportation emissions this is in just one year.
Is a Reusable Water Bottle Good for Sea Life?
Many of us have seen pictures of turtles, sea birds, fish, whales, dolphins, sharks and many other marine animals choking on or tangled in plastic. Over 100 million marine animals die from plastic pollution each year. All of these animals are important to their ecosystems. As they die, their habitats—including the habitats we rely on for food and recreation—die too.
Can a reusable water bottle help fix this problem? Yes! According to the U.N. Environment, single-use plastic bottles are the second most-common plastic type found in the environment (after cigarette butts). Plastic is a material that can last hundreds of years, yet plastic bottles are used one time and then discarded. And their hundred-year lifespans often end up as pollution on beaches or in the waves.
Does a Reusable Water Bottle Make an Impact?
A reusable water bottle makes an impact in many different ways. For all the problems that plastic causes, reusable water bottles can bypass them. So, if you’re not sure that your reusable water bottle is making a difference, consider all of the following that you’re avoiding by simply using a long-lasting bottle.
- Pollution: Plastics are made from oil and gas. Mining these nonrenewable resources produces harmful chemicals like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and many more.
- Transportation pollution: Oil and gas has to be turned into raw plastic. Raw plastic has to be shipped to bottle manufacturers. The bottles have to be shipped to other locations to be filled, which are then shipped to stores. Even the water in the bottles is shipped from one area to another. Transportation and shipping are among the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, amounting to 1.9 billion tons of CO2 every year in the U.S. alone.
- Microplastics: Tiny bits of plastic have been found everywhere, even in our bloodstream. And there’s more microplastic every year. How much microplastic we can physically take is unclear, but it’s not good for us, or any other animal or plant.
- Environmental damage: We already talked about the 100 million marine animals that plastics kill annually. Millions more terrestrial animals die this way too.
- Landfill space: Most of the plastic we think is recycled isn’t, and never has been. Exxon, Chevron, Dow, DuPont and other plastic industry giants spent millions of dollars on misinformation campaigns to convince consumers that plastic could be easily recycled, when they knew it couldn’t be. Most plastic ends up taking up space in a landfill. Only about 9% of plastic is actually recycled.
- Incinerator pollution: The plastic that doesn’t end up in a landfill ends up in an incinerator. In many cases, burning plastics produces toxic chemicals that can cause serious health effects after long-term exposure.
It’s hard to accurately calculate the cumulative effect of all of these impacts. Every time you fill up your water bottle, remember that you’re making a choice to reduce plastic pollution, chemical pollution, microplastics, transportation pollution, and much more.