When you think about it, plastic is an incredible material. Ever since it became widely available in the 1950s, it has created all sorts of advancements in just about every aspect of our lives. It’s tough, easy to produce, adaptable, and lasts forever. So, why is plastic getting so much hate these days? Well, because we’re using it incorrectly. Instead of thinking of plastic as a great construction material for things like boats, coolers, and even construction materials, we’re viewing it as a commodity similar to paper.
At some point, someone decided that plastic should be used as a disposable material but, as we’re beginning to realize, it’s in no way disposable. However, we’re still treating it as such. Just go through your house and count how many single-use plastics are laying around, from Ziplock bags and milk containers to shipping materials and toothbrushes. The list goes on and on.
There’s no greater example of this misuse than plastic water bottles. Here’s an alarming statistic from non-profit organization Habits of Waste:
“481.6 billion plastic bottles were used worldwide in a single year. That's 40 billion per month and 1.3 billion per year. Only 9% of plastic is recycled (this number is declining) due to China no longer accepting US plastics. More than $1 billion worth of plastic is wasted each year.”
So, what’s the big deal? There are all sorts of implications including pollution and the effect on human health, but our oceans seem to be getting the short stick in nearly every regard, which we’re covering in this article. The good news is that we have a simple solution right in front of us—reusable water bottles—and we can take steps right now to begin reducing plastic in the ocean.
But first, let’s talk about why it’s such a big deal.
The Plastic Problem
How Much Plastic is in the Ocean?
While there’s no way to know exactly how much plastic ends up in the ocean, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), scientists estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic was dumped in 2010 alone. There are currently three recognized “garbage patches” floating in our oceans, the largest being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is 1.6 million square kilometers, or twice the size of Texas. These garbage patches are primarily made up of plastics and they only represent a small fraction of the plastic that floats and, according to NOAA, 80 percent of plastic actually sinks into the ocean. So, it’s hard to tell how much plastic is in the ocean, but it’s safe to say that there’s too much.
Why Is It a Problem?
As we mentioned before, plastic is incredibly durable and long-lasting, which is great in certain instances, but definitely not great for single-use applications like plastic water bottles. In fact, there’s no known degradation life for plastic currently and every single ounce of it that has ever been produced still exists somewhere on the planet.
Another problem is that while plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it does break down into tiny particles called microplastics. So, if plastic garbage isn’t handled properly, it ends up in our waterways and oceans, and eventually breaks down into tiny particles that float around in the water.
The Effect of Plastic on Animals
The effect of plastic on animals in our oceans is a bit more obvious than the effect on human populations. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, animals in the North Pacific alone ingest 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic every single year. This can often be fatal or lead to lasting health problems. Because plastics stay intact for so long, animals often become entangled in plastic that’s floating in the ocean, which is oftentimes fatal as well.
Effects on People
The human effect of plastic is just now beginning to reveal its dark side. First, there are all sorts of connections between plastic production and pollutants that cause potential health problems like cancer. But, remember those microplastics we mentioned earlier? Well, those are making their way into our drinking water and it’s been proven that many humans are regularly consuming measurable amounts of plastic every week (though the exact quantity is up for debate).
Up to this point, the effects of that plastic consumption are simply unknown. Many types of plastics, like styrofoam, act like a sponge for toxins and other chemicals, which are then either eaten by wildlife or make their way into water systems, potentially creating toxicity in both our food and drinking water.
The Stainless Solution
As the title implies, this article isn’t meant to be all doom and gloom. Plastics are creating all sorts of current and potential issues but, unlike many other complex environmental issues, there are things we can do right now to reduce plastic pollution in our oceans. And one of those things is reusable water bottles, which will immediately reduce plastic water bottles and plastic in the ocean.
Let’s do a little math. If 481.6 billion plastic water bottles are used every year (the statistic we referenced earlier), and the current population on Earth is somewhere around 8 billion people, that means every person uses somewhere around 60 plastic water bottles every year. So, just by picking up a reusable water bottle like an Iron Flask Water Bottle or Iron Flask Tumbler, you’re pulling 60 water bottles out of our landfills and potentially our oceans. It’s just that simple.
According to Oceana, if we could reduce the amount of soft drinks sold by just 10 percent, we could potentially reduce 22 percent of plastic pollution right away. And, as we all know at this point, there’s no good reason to drink a soft drink, so you’re doing your health a favor in the process.
While plastic water bottles do cost less energy to produce, a study from MIT shows that using a reusable water bottle for just one month would offset the energy cost of plastic water bottles for a year. If our math checks out, that means if you use a reusable water bottle for one year, that’s offsetting 12 years worth of plastic water bottle usage. Not bad, huh?
Summing it Up
At Iron Flask, we’re all about making everyday improvements. There’s always a cost to consumption, reusable water bottles included, but by simply picking up an Iron Flask Water Bottle and using it daily, you’re making a positive difference by reducing plastic in the ocean.
Overall, it’s all about a mindset. Sure, we’d love for you to buy Iron Flask products, but it’s more important that you start examining your purchases and the way you view materials. Think of it as an investment. If you buy half a dozen Iron Flasks, but keep buying plastic water bottles, you’re not doing anyone a favor. But, if you can change your habits, drink more tap water, and always have a reusable water bottle nearby, then you’re making a real change.
So, next time you reach for a plastic water bottle, think about the future. That bottle will outlive you, your grandchildren, and probably their grandchildren too—at best, in a landfill; at worst, in our oceans. Maybe it’s time we started reaching for something better. You got this.