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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sustainable Plastic Water Bottles: The Ultimate Oxymoron

“In the sustainability community, there appears to be general consensus that a reusable water bottle is preferable to one time use recyclable bottle. But isn’t a recyclable bottle consistent with the mantra in, “reduce, reuse, recycle?” Sure, it would be best to first reduce consumption, and reuse materials as much as possible. Recycling, even the tiniest thing as water bottles, also plays a vital role towards a sustainable future.”
This is an excerpt from a post on entitled, “Showdown: Recyclable versus Reusable Water Bottles”. When I initially saw this title I was very excited to read the post, as plastic water bottle use has become an unnerving pet-peeve of mine over the past couple of years. I expected the writer, who happens to be a sustainability guru, to rant about the wastefulness of plastic water bottle use. I know I would rant if I happened to meet the CEO of Nestle Waters, Kim Jeffery. 

I am sure Jeffery is a nice man, no doubt he is very bright, but for this post’s author to say that recycling plastic water bottles will help build a sustainable future is an oxymoron in my opinion. If you take a look at the video I’ve posted below, I think you might see where my frustration is coming from.

There are two arguments on the side of the “sustainable" plastic water bottle:

1. A proportion of the plastic is recyclable
In the United States, 65 million water bottles are used per day. That means almost 24 billion water bottles are wasted per year. This number is unfathomable. Can we really excuse this number by arguing that a portion of the plastic is recyclable, when we could decrease the level to zero if everyone purchased a stainless steel bottle?

There is no justification for piling up 24 billion water bottles per year in one country alone. 

2. Tap water is a different business than packaged water. 
Packaged water competes with other packaged beverages, and the water and its bottle have a much better environmental impact than those other beverages, like pop and juice, for example. So, because plastic water bottles are less harmful to the environment than the competitor products in its market, we can justify that waste?

I think this is a poor argument. We are talking about one earth, with one climate, that is directly affected by human behaviour. I don’t care about different businesses and which has a smaller carbon footprint – the bottom line is the water bottles are tossed as waste by the millions each day, and by using stainless steel bottles, we can easily change that. 

I know it will take a mindset shift to begin using a re-usable bottle, but I believe this is a small habit change that can have a huge impact.

Dianna Cohen: Tough Truths About Plastic Pollution

1 comment:

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