New Year’s Resolution #3 – Boycott Plastic Water Bottles

Plastics are a nearly unavoidable part of our lives. From alarm clocks to toothbrushes to soda bottles to cell phones, we all use and throw away plastic products everyday. One of the most common types of plastic waste is disposable water bottles: we use them at home, carry them to the gym, or grab one when we’re on the go. In fact, every year Americans throw away 29 billion disposable plastic water bottles, only around 23% of which are recycled. They’re so common that we don’t often stop to think about the possible dangers of storing our beverages in plastic or the environmental damage caused by plastic production. That’s why our third New Year’s resolution for 2012 is to use less plastic by boycotting disposable water bottles.   

The production of plastics is damaging to the environment because plastics are manufactured from petroleum. Oil extraction pollutes and destroys ecosystems, and every year around 331 million barrels of oil – 4.6% of oil used in the U.S. – goes toward the production of plastic. Another problem with plastics is that they are non-biodegradable: every water bottle you toss in the garbage is going to be around for several hundred or even thousands of years. This becomes an especially big problem when plastics make their way into natural systems where they can choke waterways and endanger animals. In fact, 77% of the garbage found in the ocean is plastic, mostly in the form of bottles and shopping bags.

Plastic bottles can also release toxins that pose a risk to both people and the environment. One of the best known of these  toxins is bisphenol-A, known as BPA, a common additive in polycarbonate plastic that leaches from containers into food and beverages. BPA is estrogenic, meaning it mimics hormones, and has been shown to interfere with reproduction and development. A 2003 study by the Centers for Disease Controls found BPA in the urine of 93% of the adults and children tested. Phthalates are another toxin found in plastics that can migrate into food and beverages. They have been banned in toys and baby bottles manufactured in the U.S. but are still common in other plastic products.

Avoiding disposable plastic water bottles is one of the easiest ways to go green – all you have to do is pick up a reusable water bottle. Look for aluminum or steel options, and if you chose a reusable plastic bottle make sure it is BPA-free. Keep reusable bottles around your home and office and don’t forget to take one with you when you travel. You can also pick up filters for your tap or pitcher to make sure your water is clean and uncontaminated.

If you end up using any disposable water bottles this year, make sure you recycle them. Most plastic water bottles will be made from PET or HDPE (marked #1 and 2, respectively), both of which are easily recycled at almost any recycling center.

Goals for 2012

• Replace disposable plastic water bottles with reusable containers. Look for recycled aluminumstainless steel, or BPA-free plastic.

• Buy a filter to keep your water pure and clean.

• Recycle any plastic water bottles you use.

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