The Problem with Plastic

Published On July 10, 2013 | By Hannah Ellsbury | Articles

Plastic bottles are responsible for one of the ocean’s most pressing environmental problems. Urban legends have been rife for decades about a large mountain of plastic trash polluting the Pacific Ocean. The truth of the matter is, in fact, much worse.

There are at least 5 of these super-sized garbage sub-continents currently polluting the Earths’s seas.

What’s Happening?

There are many places in the world where plastic bottles are the only way of safely transporting water, where one bottle is re-used countless times. This doesn’t contribute to the pollution problem in the world’s oceans at all compared to the incredible waste that we see in the First World. For every six plastic bottles bought, only one is recycled – five are thrown away to eventually end up in landfills, or the ocean. Plastic takes literally hundreds of years to decompose – poisoning the environment and the wildlife living in it in the meantime.

Another major problem is the amount of pollution caused by the manufacture of plastic bottles. Crude oil is liberally used – each plastic bottle manufactured takes up an entire quarter of the bottle’s volume capacity of crude oil.

Put simply – plastic bottles are an environmental nightmare at every point of their existence.

How Did This Happen?

Even as recently as one generation ago, the culture of disposable goods was much smaller than it currently is. Glass bottles, re-usable containers and other recyclable packaging materials were the norm, and much more of a household’s waste could be easily recycled. While plastics can indeed be recycled, they degrade in quality through the recycling process, until eventually plastics can’t be recycled and have to be taken to landfills.

Unfortunately, times changed, and major businesses found it more cost-effective to use plastic rather than glass. While this was fantastic news for the drinks companies’ CEOs’ wallets – it wasn’t good news at all for the environment, and the massive trash islands started to gather.

Is it Too Late to Fix?

No. It’s never too late to make a change.

Changing this situation doesn’t require any major efforts, costs, or even lifestyle changes. If everyone in the world simply made a few changes in the way they consume plastic items, the problem would at least be limited – and, with changed attitudes, those in power could slowly mend the damage that’s been done.

By simply re-using as much plastic products as you can, you do your bit to save the environment. Instead of buying a fresh bottle of water or soft drink every day, refill an old one. Bottled water has no significant advantage over regular tap water at all, despite what their ad campaigns may tell you – and tap water is so much cheaper than bottled, and so much better for you than fizzy drinks!

Things are slowly getting better. The tourist stations at the Grand Canyon in the States has now banned the sale of bottled water, instead providing free water fountains which visitors can use to refill their old water bottles. This is a step in the right direction, and hopefully the first of many systems that encourage the re-use of water bottles.

When getting your coffee, bring a re-usable cup. While the paper cups used by coffee shops are mostly recyclable paper, plastic is still used to keep the cup water-tight, and the lids are single-use plastic. Cut them out and buy a stylish travel mug!

If everyone in the world would make a couple of changes, this problem would be dramatically reduced. Make the change today, because until we all do, this problem won’t go away.


[via Greener Ideas]

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2 Responses to The Problem with Plastic

  1. Hannah Ellsbury says:

    Hi Mandy. It’s a scary thought knowing that plastic water bottle left in the heat for a long legnth of time can excrete dioxins and BPA into the water consumers drink. The media goes both ways with this idea stating it is dangerous while other sources claim there i no way the level of toxins released could effect human health. Until the facts are straight, the most simple solution is to switch to a BPA free reusable water bottle!

  2. Penny says:

    Using resusable water bottles instead of disposable ones is really one of the easiest ways to help the environment, it’s crazy that there’s still a market for plastic water bottles. New York has a great initiative though to promote drinking from reusable water bottles. It’s wonderful and I hope other cities do it, too, and I hope New York expands the program. The environmental blogger Crux wrote about it at

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