« Serial litter » featured in the top 10 list of waste found on beaches, rivers, plastic bottles are a major burden not only for the environment but also for our health. Let’s take a look at alternative options to prevent this type of pollution.
HOW TO BAN PLASTIC BOTTLES?
TO PROTECT OUR OCEANS AND RIVERS
First of all, the manufacturing and transportation of plastic bottles pollute. They require petrol (oil), fossil fuel non-renewable natural resources, and transportation to distribution networks, thus producing more CO2 emissions.
Also, these bottles produce a high quantity of waste. In 2016, 25 744 plastic bottles were collected during Ocean Initiatives’ collections. With a deterioration period of 100 to 1000 years, plastic bottles severally contribute to environmental pollution.
These wastes break up into plastic micro particles which scatter in the ocean, and are a considerable and sustainable threat to ecosystems, fauna and flora. These micro wastes end up drifting into the ocean and become actual predators for marine species and marine mammals who mistake them for their usual food and dye of suffocation or intestinal occlusion.
TO PROTECT OUR HEALTH: DIRECT AND INDIRECT EFFECTS ON HEALTH
These aquatic wastes also have an impact on our health
Some types of plastic can be directly harmful to our health. There are 7 categories of plastic, including 4 considered toxic. These categories are recognizable because of the identifiable pictogram on plastic containers, including under bottles. They were launched in 1998 by the US Society of Plastics Industry system, under the name “Resin Identification Code”. This signage is represented by a triangle formed by 3 arrows and an identification number as well as initials of the plastic used. This inscription is neither mandatory nor verifiable.
Luckily, it is still possible to find this identification on most plastic containers. The categories 1, 3, 6 and some in category 7 are known to be harmful to health. However, category 2, 4 and 5 have been proven to have sanitary risks. According to UFC Que Choisir consumers association, the wisest is to use non-plastic containers and bear in mind that plastic is usually single use.
Most plastic bottles sold in supermarkets are composed of Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), because it is 100% recyclable. This type of plastic is referred to with its initials and the number 1. Even though it is 100% recyclable, the components in plastic (antimony trioxide) can alter users’ health and are likely to be carcinogenic. If the plastic container is used several times on the long term, it can be harmful to health. It affects the respiratory system, skin, reproductive system (miscarriage risks, menstrual issues) and slow down the development of children under a year old.
Indirectly, when released in the environment, micro plastics may end up in our plates and be detrimental to our health. These micro wastes spread chemical elements, which attract and absorb pollutants already present in the environment. By spreading in natural habitat, they are ingested by many marine species. On the long term, scientists worry that these elements accumulate in the food chain.
WHAT IF WE STOPPED BUYING PLASTIC BOTTLES?
TAP WATER, A SPRING AT HOME
There are alternative and sustainable solutions to reduce plastic bottles in the environment and their toxicity.
First of all, tap water. Tap water does not necessarily taste as good as bottled water but it is much cheaper! In France mineral water costs 100 to 200 times more than tap water. The latter does not require spending more on superfluous and polluting packaging which plastic bottles do.
However, tap water offers a quality which depends on its geographical origin and undergoes various treatments before being distributed to consumers. It is not always fit for consumption, depending on the countries and geographical zones. It is therefore necessary to inquire into its quality and its drinkability. Consequently there are mapping tools including “Where You Can Drink Tap Water” allowing to verify the quality of water distributed near home.
In France, for more information regarding water resources and pollution risks, you can also visit the Eaufrance website, which is update by the water information system public service. For information in other countries, you can make enquiries to local authorities of the city of your choice.
WATERING PLACES, SPRINGS EVERYWHERE!
There is always a solution, even outside your home! Watering places and water fountains are available in public spaces, including in cities. With the Eaupen app, developed by Gobilab, you can easily identify them. This company lists all watering places open to the general public in France with lists of water fountains and water access. In fact, restaurants, cafés and stores offer to refill your water canteens for free!
On a global scale, there is also an interactive community map on EauPotable.info. The latter locates watering places via the participation of its users.
REUSABLE CONTAINERS, THESE ESSENTIAL OBJECTS
In aluminum: on the long term, aluminum can release harmful elements in the liquids contained in your water bottle. Luckily, there are water bottles lined with a polyester protective film, guaranteed to be BPA free (a potentially hormone disruptive substance), which protects the content from the container. Therefore, it is harmless to users’ health but also there is no risk of bacteria proliferation.
In stainless steel: slightly heavier than aluminum, the stainless steel bottle is resistant and does not leave a metal flavor. Klean Kanteen bottles, suggested by Surfrider, are made of stainless steel. If it may release some metal atoms in the long term, the latter has not been identified as harmful. Stainless steel is very resistant to rust, chemicals and high temperatures which makes it a very stable material.
While its manufacturing requires a lot of energy and it is heavy, glass is 100% recyclable and is made of sand, a natural component. Also, it can be reused and it participates in the circular economy cycle. In Germany, the refund system allows to return to the store a used glass bottle which will be cleaned and reused.
WITHOUT BISHPENOL A, PHTALATES AND OTHER TOXIC ELEMENTS:
This type of transparent and solid container can be reused with no harm to health if it doesn’t present any toxic elements. It is the case for Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates which can have harmful effects on reproduction, metabolism and cardiovascular pathologies with BPA, and effects on fertility, foetus and new born development with phthalates. Gobi bottles, launched in 2011 by Gobilab, are made of plastic, harmless for health.
No more excuses not to adopt a reusable water bottle! Are you ready to change your habits?
Writing: Nahia Farmer
Translation: Marianne Biron