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The future of plastic water bottles

By

Cady Stanton

Consumer behavior worldwide is changing when it comes to purchasing bottled water. Citizens are inventing new recycling methods, and working to ban the sale of bottled water in parks, universities, businesses and cities. More than two thirds of plastic bottles end up in landfills every year.

In May, following the city’s ban on plastic bags, San Francisco proposed a city ordinance banning the sale of plastic water bottles on city property. The University of California San Diego, Oakton Community College outside of Chicago and municipal buildings in Quebec, Canada, have considered or enacted similar bans. Plastic water bottles are expensive, wasteful, and harmful to the environment. These bans are an important step to curb plastic waste.

In June, an inventor in Bangladesh created the “Eco-Cooler,” an air conditioner that utilizes the bottleneck of recycled plastic bottles in the same way the warm air from your lungs cools when you purse your lips and exhale. The neck of plastic bottles compresses the air as the hot air is pushed towards the rim of the bottle. The rapid expansion cools the air.

A group of scientists in India developed a new method to convert polyethylene, the most abundant plastic in the world, ¬†into liquid fuel. This was a challenge in the past because of the plastic’s strength. With new chemical strategies scientists can now break down the plastic into diesel fuel or industrial wax.

The city of Flint, Mich., had an excess of plastic bottles following the water crisis. Residents creatively repurposed the containers. Elementary school students stripped the plastic and colored it to make a bright chandelier, later displayed at a local farmer’s market. A Michigan-based recycling company identified that only 10 percent of Flint residents participated in recycling programs before the crisis. The company placed recycling trailers around the city to simplify disposal.

Buying plastic water bottles is an environmentally harmful choice. It is also economically wasteful, as most Americans have access to safe tap water. Three liters of water are needed for every one liter of bottled water produced. In addition, filling, transporting and recycling the bottles uses even more energy and money.

Plastic waste is a serious problem, but consumers can solve it through creative action and thoughtful purchases. In Winsted, the public water supply consistently tests clean and safe. Water from the tap is safe and inexpensive. Use reusable bottles. Recycle plastic, and think of creative ways to repurpose it. This will go a long way in addressing plastic waste.

 

Cady Stanton is an intern at the Office of the Community Lawyer. She is a graduate of The Hotchkiss School and a freshman at Georgetown University.

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