Crowned the smarter and more sustainable alternative to single-use plastics, reusable water bottles are good for the environment — and it's easy to see the benefits, both day-to-day and long-term. Plastic water bottles are extremely convenient when it comes to storage and use. They provide fast access to hydration and can be easily tossed in the recycle bin when you’re finished. But when you factor in the damaging effects of plastic on your health and the environment, the high costs are definitely not worth the small convenience plastic bottles may provide.
If you're wondering how to stop using plastic, Iron Flask has put together a comprehensive guide outlining some useful tips that you can easily incorporate into your daily life. With minimal effort and financial investment, you can learn easy ways to reduce plastic bottles in your life and do your part in reducing carbon emissions. Based on the latest environmental reports, we will explain exactly why reusable water bottles are good for the environment along with ideas on how to reduce plastic bottle waste.
How Does Plastic Harm the Environment?
It’s common knowledge that plastic water bottle pollution is terrible for the planet. It’s not just damaging to the oceans and other bodies of water — it’s also a major contributing factor to climate change. And we’re not just talking about the obvious pollution that comes from plastic waste thrown away or recycled bottles. When you take into account the entire life cycle of a plastic water bottle, the ill effects on the environment are significant from start to finish.
What Does Plastic Do To the Environment?
If you're wondering why plastic water bottles are bad for the environment, Carroll Muffett, head of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), explains how it all starts with production. "The real story of plastics' impact on the environment begins at the wellheads where it comes out of the ground... And it never, ever stops." Over the decades, CIEL has been gathering global data on the environmental effects of plastic production. The chemical plants that produce single-use plastics like water bottles require oil and gas to function, which is transported through pipelines. Serious problems occur as a result of gas and oil leaks both at the wellhead and in the pipelines.
Another issue of plastic production is the fact that it requires a drawn-out chemical process in order to turn oil or gas into raw plastic resin. As Muffet points out, "Plastics is among the most energy-intensive materials to produce." Once the raw materials are turned into plastics, factories require more energy to make packaging, car parts, textiles, or water bottles and other single-use plastics. As a result, these factories are emitting carbon into the atmosphere and consequently adding to the amount of global greenhouse gases. This is one of the many reasons why plastic production and pollution is contributing to climate change.
Unfortunately, Americans are not slowing down with their demand and supply of plastic. In a report from the American Chemistry Council, the U.S. plastics industry is projected to spend $47 billion on new production over the next 10 years.
The problem of plastic production and pollution might seem overwhelming, but you can do your part in slowing down the plastics industry by making the smarter choice and investing in a reusable water bottle made with ultra-durable, sustainable material like stainless steel.
What Effect Does Plastic Have on the Environment?
Along with the environmental damage that comes from plastic production, the amount of plastics that enter the world's oceans each year is also alarming. A 2015 study reported approximately 8 million tons of plastic in the oceans, which mostly consisted of microplastics.
When you consider what happens to plastic over time, the damaging effects on the environment are quite significant. According to researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, plastic water bottles that end up in the ocean and other bodies of water break down over time and turn into microplastics.
These tiny pieces of plastic debris are the most common type of pollution found in the Atlantic Ocean and Great Lakes. Measuring less than 5 mm in length, microplastics are causing damage to marine ecosystems. Plankton and fish larvae, organisms at the base of the food chain, are known to consume plastic particles as they filter seawater. Other filter-feeding animals that humans commonly eat such as oysters and sea scallops are also ingesting these small plastic fragments.
Additionally, there are several toxic chemicals that are found in common plastics such as phthalates, BPA, and others. These chemicals have been linked to a long list of serious health problems, including cancer and infertility in both humans and marine life. Plastic bottles and other single-use plastics also contain polycarbonate, which releases harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as it breaks down. This is just one of the several ways that plastic production and pollution contribute to climate change.
Where Does Our Plastic Waste Go?
Regardless of your plastic bottle use, recycling on a daily basis is highly recommended as part of the reduce, reuse, and recycle trifecta. But you should also keep in mind that even if you’re diligent about putting your plastic bottles in the recycle bin, the number of items actually making it to the recycling plant is surprisingly low. In fact, a recent report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that a mere 2% of plastics are recycled into products with the same level of function. Furthermore, the study also found that 8% of recycled plastic is “downcycled” into products of lower quality. The rest gets sent to landfills, where plastics break down through incineration or over time and release harmful chemicals into the environment.
Compounding the problem even more, countries such as China, Malaysia, and Thailand stopped accepting shipments of recycled plastics from the U.S. and Canada in 2018. As a result, more waste has started to pile up in landfills with less plastic being recycled than ever before.
Benefits of Stainless Steel Water Bottles
The situation might seem dire, but luckily there is a safer and more sustainable alternative to plastic water bottles — the reusable stainless steel water bottle. One of the main benefits of using a reusable water bottle is that it helps reduce plastic use, which is the most destructive to the environment. When you incorporate a reusable water bottle into your everyday routine, it means that hundreds of plastic water bottles won't end up in landfills or the oceans. You might just be one person, but when you add up the number of plastic water bottles that you won't be throwing away every year, it amounts to quite a lot.
How Do Reusable Water Bottles Help the Environment?
When you stop buying plastic water bottles, it reduces the amount of both plastic production and waste. In a recent study, environmental researchers discovered some alarming facts about plastic water bottle pollution. According to research collected from Surfers Against Sewage, plastic pollution has been found on every beach in the world, including tropical islands that are uninhabited. To put this in perspective, the world's population of 2.5 billion people produced 1.5 million tons of plastic in 1950; by 2016, the global population of 7 billion people produced over 320 million tons of plastic. Experts predict that this number will double by 2034.
Reusable water bottles are good for the environment because they reduce the number of plastic water bottles that would otherwise end up in landfills or the ocean. Every time you say no to buying plastic water bottles, you're voting against the plastic industry with your dollar. When you're going up against such a powerful industry, the only way you can get them to change course is by hitting them where it hurts — in the wallets of shareholders and CEOs. Not buying plastic water bottles can also have an impact on the gas and oil industry, especially if this sustainability trend becomes popular in the mainstream population.
Cost Advantages of Reusable Water Bottles
When you invest in reusable water bottles for yourself and your household, you’ll be reducing the amount of plastic water bottle production by 1,460 bottles in a single year. When you consider the fact that Americans throw away 33 million tons of plastic per year, it makes sense to stop participating in such wasteful consumption, especially when you factor in the cost benefits.
Do the math and you’ll quickly see that not only are water bottles good for the environment, but they’re also a lot cheaper. The average reusable bottle costs between $5 and $10; a plastic water bottle costs $1 to 3, depending on where you buy it. The average person needs four bottles of water a day to stay hydrated, so these costs add up quickly day after day. According to a study from Penn State University, using a reusable water bottle can save you $1,236 in a year; after five years, the number goes even higher to $6,180. When it comes to basic economics, even climate change skeptics can clearly see that the cost benefits alone more than justify making the switch from plastic bottles to reusable ones.
Stainless Steel vs. Plastic Water Bottles
Another reason why reusable water bottles are good for the environment is that they’re sustainable, especially when you invest in one that’s made with ultra-durable materials like stainless steel. If you sanitize it regularly and keep it clean, it will last a lifetime. When shopping for the best model, look for one that has double vacuum-walled technology, which will help maintain the temperature of both hot and cold beverages. Stainless steel also never rusts, so the polished exterior will keep its just-like-new luster for many years.
Compared to the plastic variety, stainless steel water bottles are non-toxic and never leave a metallic taste in your mouth. You’ll be doing your part to reduce single-use plastic waste while also enjoying water and other beverages that retain their pure, unadulterated flavor. You might not be able to tell the difference, but for those with sensitive taste buds, the plastic flavor is unmistakable when drinking from plastic water bottles.
Stainless Steel Water Bottles Are Safer Than Plastic
The harmful effects of plastic water bottles on the environment are evident and well-proven, but you also want to know: Are stainless steel water bottles safe? Besides the better tasting water and other drinks, metal water bottles are safe to use because they don’t contain BPA and other chemicals that are commonly found in plastic water bottles. This is especially significant when you factor in the long list of research studies that have directly linked these harmful chemicals with adverse health conditions in both humans and wildlife.
Are stainless steel water bottles better than plastic? Given the presence of BPA in some plastics, the answer is likely yes. The main issue with BPA found in single-use plastics is that they act as endocrine-disrupting compounds. If you drink out of plastic water bottles on a daily basis, these compounds can leach into the body over time and mimic your hormones. When these normal hormone functions are disrupted, it can cause serious problems in the reproductive systems of both males and females.
Stainless Steel Water Bottles vs. BPA-Free Plastic
But it's not just BPA that can mimic essential hormones such as estrogen. Variations of the compound such as BPS, BPF, and BPAF and many more all contain bisphenol, the same basic chemical structure found in BPA. The only way to truly protect the health of you and your family is to make the switch from plastic water bottles to the safer and more sustainable alternative — stainless steel reusable water bottles. For more details about the many research studies on BPA and other harmful chemicals found in plastic, check out our blog Why Reusable Water Bottles Are Safer Than Plastic.
How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint, including saying no to plastic water bottles and using a stainless steel reusable one instead. If you’re wondering, “What is a carbon footprint?”, here’s the simple answer: The amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere by human activity over the course of a person's lifetime. Here we’ll discuss investing in your own reusable water bottle and other ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Get Your Own Stainless Steel Water Bottle
When you’re on the go and need fast access to hydration, It’s easy to opt for plastic water bottles for their convenience factor. In order to avoid this common pitfall, we advise purchasing a reusable water bottle that is designed to fit into car holders that are built into most car consoles, backpacks, and bikes. This way, you’ll always remember to bring along your reusable water bottle whenever you’re out and about.
- Reusable Shopping Bags
Besides investing in durable reusable water bottles such as the stainless steel option, we also suggest buying inexpensive reusable shopping bags made with plastic bottles salvaged from the ocean — it’s a double whammy for reducing plastic pollution because your purchase supports cleaning up the ocean of plastic waste while also saving plastic bags that could end up in the stomachs of marine mammals.
- Encourage Others to Invest in Stainless Steel Bottles
Another way to promote a more sustainable lifestyle, reduce carbon emissions, and cut down on plastic use is to buy stainless steel reusable water bottles not only for yourself but also as gifts for friends and loved ones. The plastic waste problem might seem like a colossal issue facing humanity, but when you give the gift of sustainability to yourself and those in your inner circle, you’ll be able to make a major reduction in your carbon footprint — especially when these environmental gains are added up over months and years.
An added plus, they’ll appreciate a gift that is practical and useful, since you’ll be helping them stay hydrated throughout the day. And as we mentioned earlier, having a reusable water bottle will save them a significant amount of money over the years. Giving a stainless steel reusable water bottle as a gift is good for the environment and also the health of the most important people in your life.
Going even further than your inner circle, you could also have your business logo printed onto bottles and offered as promotional gifts to customers. You'll be promoting your business, rewarding loyal customers and potential ones alike, and also encouraging people to switch to a safer and more sustainable alternative to plastic water bottles. You'll also promote a brand identity that is seen as environmentally-friendly, which can go a long way in boosting your company's reputation for being green.
As you can clearly see, reusable water bottles are good for the environment, especially when you make the effort to stay hydrated without contributing to the massive problem of plastic production and environmental damage. For more tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint, check out our blog 13 Ways to Reduce your Carbon Footprint. The more ways you incorporate these everyday sustainability habits into your routine, the more you can support the timely movement to recycle, reuse, and the most important — reduce!