This is a subject that I came across a while back and have spent some time exploring, but this week Beth Terry of myplasticfreelife put up a post that covered the topic perfectly. I highly recommend reading her post about the other estrogenic chemicals that can leach out of plastic and into your food and water. You should also follow her on twitter @plasticfreebeth
The whole post is a great read (so check it out!), but here are a few crucial facts about why we need to move away from disposable plastics and find a more sustainable solution. This is what Beth has been doing since 2007 and her blog is full of advice and information on how to reduce your plastic footprint.
Many brands are now advertising that their products are BPA-free. From baby products to bottled water, companies have been quick to jump on the bandwagon and now advertise that they are BPA-free. As Beth points out “entire shelves of baby products are labelled BPA-free. Are they safe?” Companies want us to believe that BPA-free means that the chemicals used in their plastics are safe, but just because a product is not made with Bisphenol-A does not mean it is safe.
Beth took a 33 page study from the University of Texas and presented it on her blog in a way that is very easy to understand. A big thanks to her for the great work she put in. The UT study “confirms that hormone-disrupting chemicals leach from almost all plastics, even BPA-free plastics.” What does that mean? All those baby products and water bottles can still leach chemicals with Estrogen Activity into beverages and foods that are stored in them. This is bad because chemicals with Estrogen Activity “mimics the hormone estrogen in the body” and can cause a variety of health problems.
Have you ever left a bottled water in your car while you went to shop or see a movie? When you came back did the water taste different? If it was a sunny day the odds are that are that some chemicals leached from the plastic PET bottle into your water. Why is that? In the UT study researchers also tested plastics under duress and found that “plastics are more likely to leach chemicals when exposed to various stressors like heat or light, the researchers also tested the products after subjecting them to UV radiation (mimicking the effect of sunlight)”. So let’s review. Disposable plastics are destroying the environment, cost more money, and also leach chemicals into food and water that disrupt hormone levels, check. Sounds like a great product line.
As I have written about recently, some companies are now touting a new bio-based plant plastic that is not made with petroleum. These new plastics are still not biodegradable and further “71% of all the PLA samples tested were found to leach EA chemicals as well”. Do not buy the hype about plant based plastic, it may be better than petroleum based plastic, but it is not safer for you as the consumer.
Make the decision to use less plastic every day. Why buy plastic water bottles when the water in your home is cheap and also most likely safer to drink? An obvious first step to reduce how much plastic you buy is to put down the bottle and take control of your water.
For the rest of Beth’s research on estrogenic chemicals in plastic you can check out her blog at www.myplasticfreelife.com
The biggest players in the bottled beverage industry have announced a change to a more green friendly bottle. The new bottles from Pepsi are made from 100% plant based renewable sources (for a great breakdown of the new Pepsi bottle check out myplasticfreelife.com), while Coke has announced their new bottles will be 30% plant based. This is definitely a move in the right direction by both companies. At least this shows that we are seeing a shift in the mindset of major players like Pepsi, Coke and Nestle, but it still is not a substantial change to the problem posed by single use plastic bottles…and here is why.
- These new bottles are not biodegradable, despite the fact that the name makes them sound that way
- These new bottles are still made from PET plastic, which can leach endocrine disrupting chemicals
- The majority of plastic bottles are not recycled
- Pepsi’s bottles only use 10% rPET (recycled PET) from recycled bottles
I still avoid plastic bottles and prefer re-usable coffee thermoses and water canteens. Filling your own bottles at home will always be cheaper than buying bottled water and helps cut down on waste. Don’t be fooled by the new plant based PET bottles, they are still not biodegradable. If you do buy them like all plastic they should be recycled.
How much time do you spend each day thinking about where water comes from and where it goes? Probably not very much and I have to admit I often take it for granted too. Since I watched the Tapped documentary though I have had a bug in my brain about the drought of 2007. I grew up in Dekalb county, but had moved to Raleigh by 2007. A few years ago local communities were running dangerously low on water and still people were dragging their feet when it came to conservation. Back in Atlanta folks were hit pretty hard by the drought as well.
Nestle’s new Pure Life brand is being bottled from municipal sources meaning yet another high volume seller has joined Dasani and Aquafina re-bottling public water. Approximately 40% of bottled water is taken from municipal sources and with Nestle moving their Pure Life brand in that direction this percentage is likely to go up. This bothers me for a couple of reasons, public water systems are supported with our taxpayer dollars. This means that we are subsidizing the commercialization of our own water and then being charged hundreds of times more for that same water. So when you buy a bottle of Dasani, Aquafina, or Pure Life water you are essentially buying water that you already pay taxes on to get from your tap.
Which brings me to Atlanta back in 2007 when the shores of Lake Allatoona and the Chattahoochee River were dwindling from the drought. Meanwhile, as Thomas Wheatley pointed out, Coke was taking public water to bottle for their Dasani brand.
The Coca Cola company was doing what made the most sense and running business as usual to meet public demand. The irony is that had the city of Atlanta run out of water people would have been drinking the same water that used to flow from their taps, but they would have been paying as much as 2000 times more for it. Don’t you think it is time we stopped fueling the bottled water industry? Take control of your water and give up the bottle. You can filter your own tap water with a home filter and fill re-usable containers instead of buying bottled water. I have a built in filter in the fridge so I get most of my drinking water from there. How do you filter your water? I look forward to seeing your comments so we can share some ideas about how we can all make smarter decisions about our drinking water.
As a part of this year’s ASUC voting at UC Berkeley students are asked to lend their support for Bill 94 to help UC Berkeley reach its waste reduction goals. The vote, which lasts from April 5th-7th, will determine the fate of bottled water sales on campus. Thanks to @MyWaterOurWater for sharing the Daily Clog post about the vote.
I wanted to find out more about the ASUC voting so I looked up the 2011 UC Berkeley voters guide to see what Bill 94 was all about and have included it below in it’s entirety.
Bill 94 The End the Sale of Bottled Water Initiative
“UC Berkeley currently has a goal to reach 75% waste diversion by 2012 and zero-waste by 2020. Barring emergency situations, do you support the respectful request for
(1) the renogotiation of any existing campus contracts to phase out the purchase, sale, and distribution of bottled water
(2) for increased campus access to public water including hydration stations and better maintenance of drinking fountains, in order to aid the realization of the aforementioned waste-reduction goals?”
Given what we know about plastic pollution and the negative effect that bottled water has on the environment, especially in the ocean, it is great to see more students get involved with our future. Bottled water is not sustainable, especially when you consider that only 10% of singe-use water bottles will be recycled. The second point in Bill 94 promotes better maintenance and more availability of hydration stations on campus so students don’t have to buy bottled water and can carry re-usable canteens instead. This is the perfect solution. Nobody likes to pay the high premium on bottled water so give them a viable alternative.
Your home has a hydration station already, your refrigerator. Your fridge is probably where you go when you are thirsty so be sure to keep it stocked with plenty of water, just not the bottled kind please. Use a water pitcher or dispenser to fill a re-usable bottle or glass and drink responsibly. If you have a newer refrigerator it may already have a water filter built-in. You can put Bill 94 to use in your home and help reduce your waste too.
Image Source: Klearchos Kapoutsis under Creative Commons
Are you smarter than an 8th grader? I found this story on the Santa Cruz Sentinel site about a school that is ditching plastic water bottles in favor of reusable canteens. At Scotts Valley Middle School in California the students have picked up on a bright idea for the future, stop drinking from plastic water bottles. It can all be summed up in the message eighth-grader Hanna shared at a presentation for other students, “Water bottle trash is out of control. About 90 percent of the garbage in the ocean is plastic. Most of the garbage on the beach is plastic.” If you already knew that than you are at least as smart as Hanna when it comes to plastic pollution.
The class project to promote reusable canteens was put together by 3rd year teacher Brendan Dilloughery and received a $6,000 grant for the school from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So not only are the students at Scotts Valley Middle School learning about great ways to help the environment they are also learning there is a financial benefit to it as well. For the rest of us who won’t be receiving a $6,000 grant to stop using plastic water bottles there is still a direct reward to our wallet by giving up bottled water. Bottled water is far more expensive than tap water. Fill a reusable bottle, like this stainless steel bottle from Klean Kanteen, with water taken from your home refrigerator. The water will already be nice and cold and costs far less than even the cheapest brand of bottled water on the market.
I am pretty sure that the ocean bound namesakes of the Scotts Valley Middle School Dolphins would be proud of the students for their contribution to stopping plastic pollution.
April Fools Day is wrapping up and I hope you were all able to enjoy a good joke or prank today, hopefully not at your own expense either. Even on a fun day like April 1st it is important to think about some serious topics too. I found a great bulletin from Groundwater.org that lists their top ten ways to protect groundwater. I have copied the list into the post for you to check it out.
I think the thing that surprises me the most is how simple it can be to make a difference. Things like taking shorter showers and only running the washing machine or dishwasher when they have a full load are easy and actually will save you money too. My favorite point on the list has to be keeping a pitcher of water in your fridge. One of the big attractions to bottled water is how easy it is to just open the fridge and grab some water to drink. I know because I feel the same draw towards convenience, but bottled water is really bad for the environment and carries a higher price tag as well. Try filling a pitcher with water and storing that in the fridge so that when you need a quick sip you can quickly poor into a glass or a re-usable bottle instead. If your refrigerator has a water filter just fill the glass or bottle from your dispenser. If you don’t have a water filter you can get a pitcher that has a built-in filter. When you refill from that pitcher you will be getting cool, clean, and delicious water straight from your fridge and you will be saving money too.
Here is the full list from groundwater.org of how we can all help protect and conserve groundwater. Each day we can make good choices, like using less water and saying no to single-use plastic bottles.
- Reduce household chemical use and dispose of remaining chemicals by taking them to a hazardous waste collection site.
- Take used motor oil to a recycling center.
- Limit the amount of fertilizer used on plants.
- Take short showers.
- Shut water off while brushing teeth and shaving.
- Run full loads of dishes and laundry.
- Check for leaky faucets and have them fixed.
- Water plants only when necessary.
- Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator.
- Get involved in water education.
A bit of news from a Businessweek article I read today (special thanks to @MyWaterOurWater for sharing it, follow him on twitter!), the state of Vermont is putting a stop to the purchase of bottled water in state buildings. State employees will have access to clean tap water, which the state government feels is a better use of their budget. Every year the state invests in public water so why spend extra on bottled water?
Even more important is the acknowledgment by Deb Markowitz of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources that bottled water has a negative environmental impact on the state ecology. New York, Colorado and Illinois have also taken steps to reduce waste by switching from bottled water to tap water.
It just does not make sense to buy bottled water when we should be investing in public water infrastructure. Tap water is readily available and can be dispensed into re-usable bottles. A simple water filter can reduce chlorine taste and odor to make your tap water taste much better. If you live in an area with poor water quality you should have your water tested. Odds are you can probably get a water filter set up in your home that will remove most of the contaminants in your tap water.
A lot has been happening this week as we celebrate World Water Day 2011. Over at TakePart.com they featured this exclusive video and interview with Chris Perry, the director of Wall-E about his new animated short “The Incident at Tower 37”. The entire video is only about 10 minutes long and presents the story of a community threatened by the loss of their water supply. In the short film a large corporation is taking the water and leaving the community without enough water to support their own livelihood.
Perry is trying to raise awareness of a very real issue that faces many small communities, both human and those found in nature. While his animated vision may seem too sci-fi or distopian for some viewers, the process depicted in his work is taking place all over the world. Bottled water companies take groundwater and package it in single-use plastic containers to be resold at a huge profit for the company. In many cases the water sources that they are harvesting are an essential life line for local communities and ecosystems.
In Perry’s short and bittersweet tale the little guys triumph over big business through a guerrilla effort that sabotages the extractor, but in real life we do not have to do anything that drastic. Bottled water companies rely on basic business principles of supply and demand to profit off their industry, and business has been booming for most of the 21st Century. The best way to strike back at bottled water is to STOP BUYING IT! It is time that we stopped letting bottled water be the trendy way to drink up on the go. Switch to a re-usable bottle and fill it from your own home tap. You have the ability to be responsible and take control of your water. It is cheaper and safer for you and the environment, which means that in the end we can all win.
We use plastic for a variety of functions because it is cheap and easy to use. The problem is how much of that plastic that we use every day is not handled responsibly and recycled. We have reached the point where pollution from plastics waste is having a severe effect on the environment. I am not talking about landfills, though there is definitely an argument to be made for the work we have to do there. What I wanted to talk about today is the accumulation of plastic in the ocean. Researchers, like Captain Charles Moore and his team, have discovered that plastic are polluting our oceans in a big way.
Ever take a trip down to the beach? Did it look like this image? Let’s hope it did not, but more and more beaches are becoming receptacles for plastic water bottles and other trash that are thrown into lakes and rivers and eventually find their way into the ocean. What many people do not realize is that plastic is forever. It cannot be dissolved or used up and instead is merely broken down into smaller pieces. While plastic waste on beaches is certainly not something we want to see the issue that Captain Moore and the researchers at the Algalita Marine Foundation are focusing on is the pollution found in the oceanic gyres.
Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? You can take a tour and get out there to see it for yourself, but it is not a popular destination. Located in the Pacific gyre, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area where oceanic tides have created a gathering point for much of the plastic waste that has found its way out to sea. Samples drawn from the gyre have revealed that there is more plastic than plankton in the water. After being buffeted around and stirred up in the ocean water much of the plastic that has made it to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been broken down into small colorful pellets. With the number of these little plastic pieces floating in the water having exceeded the amount of plankton there many fish are starting to eat the plastic. Instead of eating their natural food source, plankton, the fish are eating our trashed plastics.
The garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean is not unique. Researchers have found trash build up in gyres in the North and South Atlantic, Indian, North and South Pacific oceans. Some of the most commonly discarded items are plastic water bottles. With only a small percentage of water bottles actually recycled in the U.S. there is plenty of room for each individual to make a difference. Try to drink from re-usable containers whenever possible and if you do buy a plastic bottle or other container make sure to recycle when you are finished. These are small steps, but together it can make a big difference.
I have talked in great detail about the various contaminants that end up in bottled water and the tap water that comes from your local water utility. The best way to reduce your exposure to impurities in your water is by using a home water filter system. Many homeowners already have a water filter system for their refrigerator’s ice and water dispenser. A refrigerator water filter is the easiest way to filter water and should be replaced about every 6 months to maintain optimal filtration. If you do not have a filter system in place already, a great place to start is by finding out what is in your water.
The Environmental Working Group has compiled reports from water utilities across the country to give you easy access to your water quality report. Once you know what contaminants are present in your water you can make a better decision about what type of water filter to use in your home. I have attached my own water report as an example. As you can see the water is tested regularly and certain chemicals are consistently tested higher than health guidelines, but are not considered to be over the legal limit. So my water utility is not breaking the law, but my water is still unsafe to drink.
Because of this I do not drink any water from the tap in my apartment unless it has been filtered first. I use a Brita faucet filter that was easily attached to the kitchen sink to filter water for drinks and cooking. It works great and took about 5 minutes to set up.
There are many ways to filter the water that enters your home and reduce the contaminants in it. Whatever kind of water filter you choose just make sure that it has been certified by the NSF, an independent organization that tests filters to make sure their filtration claims are accurate. Once you have a water filter that reduces impurities in your water you will probably notice that it tastes better too! A sweet bonus.