The ENVIRONMENTAL Damage Plastic water bottles cause and how Valley Torah’s E.A.C. is addressing it

For over the past 50 years, the world has been facing an enduring ecological crisis. Plastic waste is polluting the world’s oceans, rivers, and streams, leaking toxins and harmful materials into the water we, and so many other species, drink. Once in marine environments, littered plastics often absorb chemical pollutants and become storehouses for toxic materials. Aquatic animals usually consume these plastics, causing chemical pollutants to leach into their stomachs. As bigger fish eat these fish, the toxins build up, spreading to hundreds of marine food webs. Eventually, these microscopic plastic fragments make their way to our systems (either by eating seafood or drinking water) and have detrimental effects on our bodies (Bisphenol A: Hazards and sources). 

“Toxic contaminants also accumulate on the surface of plastic materials as a result of prolonged exposure to seawater. When marine organisms ingest plastic debris, these contaminants enter their digestive systems, and over time accumulate in the food web. The transfer of contaminants between marine species and humans through consumption of seafood has been identified as a health hazard, but has not yet been adequately researched.”

-International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

It is estimated that roughly 60 million plastic bottles end up in landfills every day, with Americans sending over 38 billion water bottles to landfills annually. That means approximately 1,500 plastic bottles are thrown away every second of the day (Shocking Plastic Water Bottle Pollution Facts & Statistics). The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is just one example of the accumulation of all this plastic waste in the oceans. The patch spans waters from the West Coast of North America to Japan. Furthermore, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization estimates that plastic waste kills an estimated 1.1 million marine animals per year (Facts and figures on marine pollution | UNESCO).

Aside from the aquatic damage plastic waste can have, the atmospheric damage is just as immense. Industrial production of plastic requires the drilling and extraction of crude oil, its refinement, and its conversion- a process that in itself has a substantial environmental impact. According to Printward, it takes 17,000,000 barrels of oil per year to make one year’s worth of plastic water bottles. To put that into perspective, that means that the oil required to create each bottle would be able to fill up about ¼ of the bottle made (Plastic Water Bottle Pollution | Facts & Effects). From the oil extraction to the bottle creation to the actual bottling of the water, the process of bottling water contributes 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution per year.

For environmental, ecological, and personal health reasons, the necessity to reduce our plastic consumption seems blatantly obvious. The Valley Torah Environmental Awareness Club (E.A.C.), a staunch student-led advocacy group, was met this past week with an astounding victory in its battle for on-campus plastic reduction. The E.A.C.’s most recent proposition, dubbed “Project Water Works,” requested the administration add new water fountain systems that make for the easy refill of reusable water flasks. The administration has agreed to add two new water fountain installations, one upstairs and one downstairs, fully equipped with a drinking faucet and a state-of-the-art reusable flask filler. The new water fountain systems offer a convenient alternative to plastic water bottle use. Reusable water bottles require less oil to manufacture, reduce the number of plastics that end up in landfills, seas, streams, and rivers, and minimize the carbon footprint on the world, and now, thanks to Project WaterWorks, it’s easier than ever for students to make the switch.

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