feelin’ hot, hot, hot

Let’s look at some numbers, courtesy of Earth911

5.1 billion: Amount, in pounds, of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and jars available in the U.S. for recycling in 2009.
2.456 million
: Amount, in pounds, of plastic bottles recycled in 2009, making it a record high.

Why does this matter? Because plastic, unlike some other materials in your recycling bin (like aluminum or glass), is most often downcycled rather than fully recycled. It degrades, becomes a lower quality plastic & becomes unrecyclable in many locales. (My hometown doesn’t do home pick-up of the lesser #5 plastics. Does yours?) The Dictionary of Sustainable Management explains this better:

Most recycled industrial nutrients (materials) lose viability or value in the process of recycling. This means they can only be used in a degraded form for components other than their original use. White writing paper, for example, is often downcycled into materials such as cardboard and cannot be used to create more premium writing paper.

Why does this matter right now? Today of all days? On a Monday, when life is hard enough & you don’t want to feel guilty about that plastic bottle you’re drinking from? Because here in Bloomington, it’s going to be 80 degrees. Again. In May. It’s hot. And I need to stay hydrated, but I need to think about what goes into hydrating my body.

This infographic, found while reading 5 Fascinating Infographics about Water, explains where many of the unrecycled plastic bottles go; for a more narrative approach, check out this article in E magazine about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We’re paying extra each day to buy water bottles that then pollute vast amounts of our world’s water? I can’t… I just don’t… Umm. Something about this just doesn’t seem right.

I know what you may be thinking. “But I recycle my bottles, & I turn off the water when I brush my teeth. I shower quickly with cooler water. I fill the sink rather than just letting the water run when I do dishes. I’m saving! Give me my Dasani!” It’s not that simple. You may be doing all you can, but is the company whose water you’re buying? An interesting fact from Drop the Prop:

Coke (Dasani) and Pepsi (Aquafina) take tap and put it through an energy intensive process called reverse-osmosis. This process takes more energy than turning seawater into drinking water. Additional filtration is not needed for tap water but used only for marketing…and to assure a consistent taste…

That is a lot of energy. When you think about it, it just seems silly. You’re municipality is already doing that energy use for you. I know that some places don’t have the best water quality, and some places–mostly outside of the States–really shouldn’t be drinking the water. But in most places, especially if you opt for a Brita-style water filter system or one of those cute Bobbles, you’re doing all the work a larger company would be doing. Plus, you’re already paying for water treatment. Why pay twice?

This summer, save the money, the plastic & the energy. Invest in a filtration system. Let’s shrink the size of that plastic island!

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About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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