By Jenna Cittadino and Kristina Haddad
We have to admit – when we read this statistic even we were startled. But just as startling are the other statistics related to the production and use of plastics:
- A report by the University of Georgia documented that by 2015 humans had generated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic. To put this in perspective that’s equal to the same weight as 80 million blue whales or one billion elephants.
- 10 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans annually. That’s equal to more than a garbage truck load every minute;
- Humans eat over 40 pounds of plastic in their lifetime;
- 1 million marine animals are killed by plastic pollution each year;
- Some report show there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050;
- Finally of the amount of the plastic generated each year, 50% of that is for single-use purposes. Things like plastic straws, plastic cutlery, plastic bags, plastic toothbrushes and razors and of course the ubiquitous plastic water bottle.
For the purposes of this blog (and there will be more on this topic we assure you!) we are focused on the water bottle. Mainly because we were curious to learn a bit of the history of the plastic bottle problem. To start, tap water and bottled water are comparable in terms of safety, yet many Americans purchase plastic bottles of water and serve it at their homes anyway. This wasn’t always the case. According to National Geographic, bottled water became a trend in the late 80s (supposedly fueled when supermodels began carrying around their water bottles). Soon everyone had to carry water with them at all times. And when we say everyone, we mean everyone, because in 2019 more than 1,000,000 plastic bottles were sold every single minute.
Luckily in the past 15 years or so, reusable water bottles have become a new trend. Such a trend, that it doesn’t feel right to take up an entire blog with the tip, “Buy a reusable water bottle”. But perhaps we can reassess how good we are at using those reusable water bottles. Just because people have one, it doesn’t mean people stopped buying plastic water bottles, because if that were the case we wouldn’t be dumping 10 million tons of plastic in our oceans annually.
So we’ve also put together some statistics about plastic water bottles to inspire you to keep putting those reusable bottles to use:
- Americans bought a total of 14.4 billion gallons of bottled water in 2019.
- According to one estimate, producing these bottles required the energy equivalent of over 17 million barrels of oil, which is enough oil to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year.
- Producing the 14.4 billion gallons also produced over 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. This is the same amount of carbon dioxide that would be emitted by over 540,000 passenger vehicles in one year.
- Estimates show that one 500-milliliter (16 ounce) plastic bottle of water has a total carbon footprint equal to 82.8 grams, or 0.18 pound. If you replace one plastic water bottle per day, you can save 65.7 lbs of CO2 per year.
- Bottled water requires up to 2,000 times the energy used to produce tap water.
Fortunately, in response to this crisis, there are activists all over the world that are working create a world free of plastic pollution. Here in the United States, The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2021 has been introduced in Congress. The Act builds on successful statewide laws across the U.S. and outlines practical plastic reduction strategies to realize a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable future. The federal bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA), represents the most comprehensive set of policy solutions to the plastic pollution crisis ever introduced in Congress. You can take action and support the act by contacting your representative – just click here https://actionnetwork.org/letters/support-the-break-free-from-plastic-pollution-act-2/.
We know it’s going to be a long haul, but It’s our hope that with a groundswell of demand from the public, the statistics we cite will be found only in history books. And just like other trends that come and go the plastic water bottle will go the way of the pop top soda can (for those that weren’t born during the time of the pop top soda can – you can read about it here!)
To learn more about our work on plastic pollution and partnership with the Clean Seas Coalition, please click here.