Staff editorial: With water bottles, reusing trumps recycling

October 27, 2017 — by Jeffrey Xu
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Photo by Kaitlyn Wang

People often think that by simply recycling their plastic water bottles, they are saving the environment. This isn’t true.

After every lunch period, the quad becomes a graveyard for trash.

One of the worst items left behind are dozens of plastic water bottles. Even though the heaps of trash are a result of a combination of laziness and a lack of regard for the environment, the answer to the plastic water bottle epidemic isn’t simply recycling them.

People often think that by simply recycling their plastic water bottles, they are saving the environment. This isn’t true.

In fact, recycling is not even what most people think it to be. Instead of being an endless cycle of being able to recreate products out of waste plastic, plastic products can be recycled only seven to nine times before becoming unusable.

Because of this, more manufacturing of plastic water bottles is needed to keep up with demand, which takes a huge toll on the world’s oil reserves. This is a colossal problem because oil is an nonrenewable resource, and according to The Pacific Institute, 17 million barrels of oil are used per year to make plastic water bottles.

Some people believe that the scope of the issue of running out of fossil fuels is beyond their lifetime, having the preconceived notion that Earth still has plenty of natural resources to spare. But according to the British Company Ecotricity, the Earth is projected to run out of oil by 2052, which is not very far off.

Furthermore, according to the More Oceans Less Plastic Institute, less than 10 percent of all plastic products are even recycled properly, resulting in tons of waste plastic polluting the oceans, more specifically — 8 million metric tons per year.

This misplacement of plastic bottles also has drastic impacts on ocean ecosystems, resulting in the death of over 100,000 marine animals each year due to being trapped in plastic or the ingestion of it, according to The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Organization. The obvious solution to this problem is to have more people carry reusable water bottles.

On top of being more eco-friendly, reusable water bottles are much more cost effective. A one-time purchase of around $20 for a reliable reusable water bottle is a lot more reasonable than spending $7 a week to buy a 24-pack of Arrowhead plastic water bottles.

The argument that contends that disposable water bottles are more convenient doesn’t hold, either. Having to buy whole cases of water bottles instead of relying on one reusable water bottle is much more expensive and inconvenient in the long run.

Best of all, reusable water bottles can come with many perks, such as the insulated S’well or Hydro Flask bottles that can keep any drink warm or cold for 24 hours.

This isn’t to say that people should never buy disposable water bottles ever again. There are rare occasions when they’re needed. But on daily basis, there is no reason they should be a person’s first choice.

Also, if the school pays for more water hydration stations, using reusable bottles is more convenient than ever, allowing students to easily refill their bottles on campus.

Costing around $5,000 per installation, the hydration station inside the school’s journalism room has already conserved 4,250 plastic water bottles in its first year and two months of operation.   

Ironically, even with the implementation of hydration stations around the school in places like the weight room, the school cafeteria still sells plastic water bottles for $1 each, a direct cause of the pollution in the quad after lunch.

The school should encourage students to avoid buying plastic water bottles and also install more hydration stations in places where many students gather, such as the new music building, the new Media Arts Program annex and the upcoming student center in the center of campus.

This way, students will have even more reasons to carry reusable bottles rather than leave behind horribly polluting plastic bottles in the quad.


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