Odds are you’ve known that plastic, especially when mass produced and distributed worldwide, isn’t good for the environment. Many of the environmental dangers of plastic have already been known for years. On top of that, in the last several years scientists have done a number of studies on the effects plastic has on your health, and while the results vary widely, none of them point to good things.
In fact, new studies about potential hazards caused by plastics are going on all the time. We may still be discovering new dangers caused by plastics for years to come.
While we don’t know everything plastic does—and we can’t be sure what it will do to the planet over the next hundred or two hundred years—we do know that it’s terrible for the environment and not much better for us.
In other words, what we do know is that we need to minimize our use of plastic and even stop using it altogether if possible.
Wondering how bad it really is? Keep reading to discover the damage caused by just one form of plastic: the plastic bottles you buy your favourite soda in.
What Do Plastic Bottles Do to the Environment?
Let’s start with the environmental cost of making plastic bottles. Plastic is made largely of oil, and between that and power requirements to produce plastic bottles, 15-17 million barrels of oil are used every year to create enough plastic water bottles to serve consumer demand in the US—and that doesn’t include pop bottles or even other countries. A study by the Pacific Institute in California showed that it takes about 2000 times the power to produce one bottle of water as it does to produce an equal amount of tap water.
Extra water is also necessary to create the plastic bottles. This water becomes unusable after and is completely wasted. It’s pretty scary when you consider how many children in developing nations have little to no access to clean water. An even scarier prospect when you consider that our population grows every hour.
Unfortunately the impact on the environment doesn’t end once the bottle is made—or even when it reaches your local supermarket. Despite the recycling infrastructure built all across North America in the last few decades, most plastic bottles still get thrown in the garbage—including 86% of those bought in the US. These bottles end up at the landfill where they won’t biodegrade for 700 years.
If that’s not bad enough to make you think twice about buying plastic bottles, 10% of all manufactured plastic ends up in the ocean. Most of this plastic gets stuck on the ocean floor, where it will never biodegrade.
Even worse, these plastics absorb pollutants, meaning if they do decompose—as they will in landfills—they essentially become pollution time bombs.
What Can We Do About It?
There are many different ways to address the environmental issues caused by plastic bottles. You can sign petitions and write letters to corporations that produce these products. You can write letters to politicians asking that they ban the harmful chemicals in plastics from your area. You can even start a protest if you want.
But the most important thing you can do is reduce your own use of plastic with the hope of eventually eliminating it. Buy a stainless steel water bottle and take it everywhere so you can always refuse the plastic alternative. Take reusable shopping bags with you every time you go to the grocery store. Refuse to buy individually packaged items.
But what if you absolutely love soda and you don’t want to give it up?
Thanks to the SodaStream machine, which makes it easy to create your own soda at home, you no longer have to buy harmful plastic bottles or pay ridiculous prices for pop at your local supermarket. Their plastic bottles are made without BPA and they also have multiple models which use glass carafes instead if you want to skip plastic altogether.
Completely eliminating plastic from your life is a difficult task. Most machines have some part that’s plastic. Many chairs are made entirely or mostly of plastic. Your multivitamins probably came in a plastic bottle.
On the other hand, reducing the amount of plastic you use is easy. New products are coming out all the time to give you environmentally friendly alternatives to mainstream products. Once you’ve made a conscious decision to avoid plastic whenever possible, you’ll find that it gets easier all the time.
Start thinking seriously about your plastic usage today and become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.