How Much Plastic is Saved by Using Reusable Water Bottles?

It’s really a phenomenon of the 1990s that we even have this obsession with bottled water.  Prior to that, people rarely bought or used bottled water. Throughout the history of humanity, we managed to get water into our bodies from glasses, cups, fountains and other non-polluting sources without any problems.

Then Big Business saw an opportunity and began to tell people that tap water was unhealthy and bottled water was a better alternative. Never mind that so many brands of bottled water – even expensive ones – constantly test higher for pollutants, minerals and metals than tap water. They are essentially charging consumers huge mark-ups on the world’s most abundant resource, wrapped in the world’s cheapest package with the most dangerous consequences for our environment – single-use plastic.

Here are 7 things you can save by using reusable water bottles:

  1. Money. Fresh water literally falls from the sky, but people are still willing to spend anywhere from $0.25 to $2.00 per bottle for it. It’s one of the most bizarre pricing inconsistencies in our free market. And since most people never know what the water quality is before they buy, their choice is based purely on the label and the price – neither of which tell you anything about the quality of what you’re about to drink. You can outsmart the water companies by using your own reusable water bottle. Fill up at home for almost no cost and drink your water from the coolest bottle you can find. If you want to add a home filter system, the modest cost will be repaid to you after 4-6 weeks of bypassing the store.
  2. Pollution. Water bottles are made almost entirely from single-use plastic, which is made from fossil fuels – usually methane, but sometimes crude oil as well. The process requires many harmful and even toxic chemicals to create the bottles, not to mention the process of drilling for the fossil fuels. Once they’ve been made, they often go on Diesel trucks or cargo ships to reach the water plant where they’re filled. As they breakdown, they release trace amounts of those same chemicals – sometimes into the air, other times into the product they’re holding.
  3. Carbon Dioxide. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that is causing the Earth to warm up at the fastest rate we’ve ever recorded. About 4 out of 5 water bottles are made from methane – also known as natural gas – which is extracted alongside oil. Methane gas often escapes from its drill site because, well, it’s a gas. It’s hard to control where gases will escape from once you’ve punctured their hiding place deep underground. Methane is also a greenhouse gas, but it’s about 23-28X more powerful than CO2, and some estimates of the problem suggest that for as much methane as gets captured, an amount close to 40-50% of that total escapes into the atmosphere, heating up the planet.
  4. Fish and Animals. The data keep getting worse on this one. Water bottles are one of the main culprits in ocean plastic contamination. Every year, 11 million tons of plastic waste flows into our oceans, starts to break down into smaller pieces, and ends up ensnaring sea life or filling stomachs with undigestible matter that the creatures thought was food – seal life humans often end up eating. Millions and millions of fish, birds and sea mammals are dying this way everyone year, all so people can carry around plastic water bottles for a short time.
  5. Natural Spaces.  We are quickly running out of places to throw our trash, and our recycling system – such as it is – manages to process barely 9% of the plastic waste we consume in the U.S. each year. The overflow of trash from disposable plastic is now crowding into our oceans, lakes and rivers, and scattering into our parks, beaches and forests. Its constant presence comes from being used in almost every aspect of our daily lives. Switching to reusable water bottles would be one great way to reduce this most visible form of plastic pollution.
  6. Landfills. America is moving towards being a zero-waste society – though it’s easier said than done. Zero waste, contrary to its name, doesn’t mean we’ll do away with trash. It means that states and communities are moving toward policies that reduce the amount of waste they collect to the absolute minimum. This will include pressure on manufacturers and retailers to reduce product packaging, for example. And it will be greatly helped by people doing all they can at home to stop unnecessary waste from entering the system when there are good options. Using your reusable water bottle when you leave the house is exactly the type of thing that moves us closer to a zero-waste future.
  7. Health. Plastic never goes away – it just breaks down into smaller and smaller bits until you can’t see it. Humans have created 9.1 billion tons of it since it entered the consumer mainstream in the 1950s, and 8.3 billion tons still remain on Earth in solid form – the rest has been incinerated. Small bits are now found in our air, our water and our food chain. So much so that we actually consume an average of 5 grams of plastic per week from our regular diets. To help you visualize that, 5 grams is about the same amount of plastic used to make a credit card. Each week, on average, we now eat a credit card’s worth of plastic. In random tests of mother’s milk, trace amounts of plastic have been found in 100% of the samples. We’ve really done it to ourselves in this case, and the only way to reverse the damage is to stop using and discarding so much plastic.