Plastic Water Bottle Waste | Environmental Impact

April 2022

Drink Water the Eco-Friendly Way

Drinking plenty of clean water is one of the best things you can do for your health, so it’s no surprise that bottled water is the fastest-growing beverage choice in the world. However, while bottled water is great for the companies that make it, it’s an ecological disaster for the planet.

Environmental Impact of Plastic Water Bottles

The root of the problem is disposable, single-use plastic water bottles. While plastic bottles are recyclable, most are simply thrown away. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), less than one-third of all plastic bottles are recycled.[1] Every year, around 29 million tons of plastic containers end up in landfills in the U.S. alone. Another 7 million tons are incinerated, releasing greenhouse gasses and adding to our carbon footprint.[2]

Even worse, almost all plastic bottles that aren’t recycled, burned, or placed in a landfill eventually make their way into our oceans. Plastic in our oceans isn’t just an eyesore; it’s devastating for marine ecosystems. Unlike paper or cardboard, plastic waste doesn’t decompose. Eventually, ocean waves will break a discarded plastic bottle into tiny pieces, but even then, it doesn’t go away. It simply becomes a new marine hazard known as microplastics.

Microplastics are plastic bits smaller than 5 millimeters long, and there is a staggering amount of them in our waters. A 2014 study estimated that there are between 15 and 51 trillion plastic particles in our oceans.[3] These plastic bits smother coral reefs and devastate the ecosystem. Plastics can be swallowed by sea life, blocking the digestive tract and leading to starvation and death.[4] A 2016 United Nations report found almost 800 species of marine life contaminated by plastics.[5]

However, it’s not just sea life that’s affected. We, humans, are exposed to plastic toxicity, too. When fish and shellfish ingest the smallest microplastics, they can become lodged in their flesh. When we eat seafood, these plastics can be transferred to our bodies.

There’s also a subtler way that bottled water consumption is bad for the environment—transportation. Bottled water travels a surprisingly long distance before you drink it. After the water is pumped out of its source, it’s bottled in a plant and has to be shipped by truck to distribution centers and grocery stores, creating unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and increasing your carbon footprint. Imported water adds a several-thousand-mile boat ride into the equation.

How to Go Green

Drinking water the environmentally friendly way is pretty easy. You likely have access to a source of fresh water that doesn’t need to travel a single mile by truck, train, boat, or car—the tap in your home. Drinking water from the tap in a reusable bottle reduces energy consumption by 85% and greenhouse gas emissions by 79%.[6]

Some people are understandably cautious about tap water these days, but a high-quality home water filter can put those fears to rest. Drinking filtered water from the tap is much healthier, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly than bottled water.

Should I Reuse Plastic Water Bottles?

Try to avoid using plastic water bottles. The bottles are made from a chemical called polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This chemical degrades with time and heat and contains endocrine disruptors that can harm your health.

Should I Use a BPA-Free Refillable Water Bottle?

BPA, or bisphenol A, is an industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate plastics. You can also find it in certain epoxy resins, which are used to line the inside of some metal food and beverage cans. BPA can leach into any beverage held in these containers, exposing you to the chemical every time you take a drink.

This kind of contamination is widespread. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of people six years and older.[7] This is especially concerning for parents, as BPA is most harmful to newborns and pregnant women.

An elegant solution to these problems is to only drink water from a glass cup. Glass is BPA-free and 100% recyclable. As a bonus, glass also makes your water taste better. Plastic tends to absorb residual tastes and odors. Glass, however, is the best container material for the purity of flavor. Glass doesn’t break down like plastic, so as long as you don’t drop it, a simple glass cup should provide you with safe, great-tasting water for many years.

Invest in a Water Filter System

Tap water is significantly cheaper and more environmentally friendly than bottled water. Drinking eight glasses of bottled water a day for a year can cost over $2,000. Drink that same amount from the tap, and you can expect to pay closer to 73 cents for the whole year.[8] The trouble is that municipal water systems and private wells run the risk of contamination. Corroded, aging pipes, industrial and agricultural runoff, naturally-occurring heavy metal and chemicals in the ground, and dozens of other things can all make tap-water unsafe.

That’s why it’s important to invest in a high-quality water filtration system for your home. A good water filter can remove contaminants and leave you with pure, fresh, safe water. There are many types of water filters that can help you save money and preserve the environment. Which one is right for you depends on your own preferences and needs. Check out our high-quality water filtration systems or talk to our friendly, knowledgeable customer service team now to find your solution to drinking water the eco-friendly way.

  1. Plastics: Material Specific Data.
    Updated May 7, 2019. Accessed July 4, 2019.
  2. Containers and Packaging: Product-Specific Data.
    Updated May 7, 2019. Accessed July 4, 2019.
  3. Van Sebille, et al. A global inventory of small floating plastic debris. Environmental Research Letters. 2015;10(12).
  4. A Guide to Plastic in the Ocean. National Ocean Service.
    Updated April 11, 2019. Accessed July 4, 2019.
  5. Marine Debris: Understanding, Preventing and Mitigating the Significant Adverse Impacts on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. UNEP 2016.
  6. Bottled vs. Tap Water. City of Portland.
    Accessed July 4, 2019.
  7. Bisphenol A (BPA). National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
    Updated May 23, 2019. Accessed July 4, 2019.
  8. Bottled Water vs. Tap Water. Milwaukee Water Works.
    Accessed July 4, 2019.

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