This article is part of our “Youth Head Delegate Blog Series” — written by our YHDs!
By Dean R.
Everyone needs water. Life depends on water to survive. The issue with bottled water specifically is that companies commoditize water, and change it from a natural resource to a tradable product. It is strange to put a price tag on a basic human right. Whenever you buy a bottle of water, you are buying the plastic the bottle is made of, not the actual water itself. Everyday, you are faced with a choice; do you carry around a reusable water bottle with you, or do you simply purchase plastic bottles of water throughout the day?
The end result of a bottle of water is not worth the amount of effort and resources it takes to be created. Some companies use over 17 million barrels of oil to create one year’s supply of plastic bottles. It is a long process that is too complex for something that is manufactured and marketed as “disposable.”
This is one of the main issues. Plastic water bottles are often used once or twice, but are then thrown away. The bottles accumulate and take up space in landfills and garbage dumps. Recycling isn’t really a viable option either, as only about 23% of plastic water bottles are recycled in the U.S. alone. Millions of bottles find their way into various ecosystems and habitats, where they take over 450 years to decompose and turn into microplastics. The most greatly affected ecosystems are oceans. According to the World Economic Forum, about a dumptruck’s worth of bottles ends up in the oceans every minute. The bottles harm marine life and ecosystems, and the plastics can even get into the food systems that humans rely on.
However, one exception is places where clean tap water and drinking water is scarce. People that live in these areas rely on bottled water because it is deemed “safer” than the normal tap water that they have access to. The issue of clean water is a completely different topic though, and buying bottled water out of necessity is not the fault of the consumer.
So what can we do to reduce plastic water bottle waste? This is where reusable options come in. Before the surge of bottled water production in the 1990s, people had been using reusable water bottles for ages. Many ancient cultures had sustainable ways of storing and transporting water. These methods often used wood, glass, metal, or woven materials, and would last for quite a long time. They served the same purpose as disposable bottles, but were a lot better quality and not as flimsy.
Nowadays, water bottles are made from many kinds of materials, from thin plastic to insulated and durable stainless steel. The most sustainable options are metal, glass, and ceramic bottles. Some bottles come with filtration systems as well, to “purify” any water that may have pollutants, however the science behind this is still debated.
How can using reusable water bottles be beneficial? Not only are reusable bottles better for the environment, they’re better for you and your wallet. Investing in a good quality water bottle will save you a lot more money in the long term than buying disposable water bottles often. It is estimated that one person living in North America could save anywhere between $250-$3000 a year by refraining from purchasing bottled water.
So make the switch today. Go out and buy a good quality water bottle that is just right for you and your lifestyle. Or even better yet, you can upcycle something you already have at home, such as a jar! Your wallet, your health, and the planet will thank you deeply.