Roundtable – Plastics Kill

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Plastic bottles_Gabi

By Scott L.

Say you’re me and you’re in Environmental Science class. You can’t help but doze off because the teacher is so boring. But wait, she says something about plastic water bottles that catches your attention. “I just drank a bottle of water today,” you think to yourself. You smile, “and I threw the bottle into the recycling bin.” You feel good about yourself; you feel like you’ve made the world a better place by recycling the bottle. You feel morally tickled. The teacher rudely interrupts your happy moment and says, “by recycling plastic water bottles we’re actually doing more harm than good.”  “Did I hear correctly?” you ask yourself. “This is absurd, everyone knows that recycling is a good thing.”

Normally, you’d just accept what your teacher tells you, but because you’re me and you’re a science nerd, you decide to go home and do some extensive research. By extensive research, I mean you Googled it, and this is what you learn: according to American environmentalist Van Jones in his Ted Talk, the U.S has been building oil wells along the Gulf of Mexico for years. A particular oil, called BPA oil is what’s used in manufacturing plastic bottles. In the process, hundreds of pounds of harmful chemicals are released in the air. These plastic bottles are then shipped to supermarkets and stores where people buy and drink from them. After someone drinks all their water, they throw the water bottle into the recycling bin. From there, the bottle is transported to a recycling center which loads all the plastic bottles on a ship, and ships them to developing countries like China. There, the plastic is burned, releasing even more toxic fumes that the people inhale.

Why not just stop buying cheap bottled water you ask? People already do this, and its called “ethical consumerism,” which means only buying items that are environmentally friendly. However, people who are impoverished often lack the choices that the affluent have. They can’t afford green products or fancy artisan waters like Voss, which uses glasses bottles, or Smart Water, which uses BPA free plastics. As a result, many of them are ingesting harmful chemicals.

Even if you don’t drink bottled water, you are still in danger of the same toxins. When these bottles are recycled, or more accurately burned, toxic fumes are released, and Pacific air currents carry these fumes directly to California. Scary isn’t it?

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