Why Does Banning Plastic Help Us Breathe?
Over the past year or so, my husband and I have had many lively discussions about plastic items entering the house. Plastic utensils, plastic storage containers and especially huge plastic bottles containing large amounts of food and drink from his beloved Costco.
A few weeks ago, however, he turned the tables when he told me that our hometown of Concord, Massachusetts would soon be voting on whether to ban the sale of less than 1-liter bottles of water. “I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “What do you think?”
Much to my surprise, my reaction was a bit skeptical: “Won’t that mean that kids will buy soda or Gatorade instead? Why don’t they ban soda sales?”
“We have to start somewhere,” he countered.
Since I do all I can to avoid plastic, such a ban wouldn’t impact me personally, yet I found the idea of being able to buy sugary drinks at the local store, but not water, troubling. So like all worried moms, I did some research.
How bad are those plastic water bottles, really?
As I soon learned, exceedingly bad. These bottles are made from PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) polymer. According to the EPA, toxic pollutants, including styrene, butadiene and methanol are released into the air during its production.
Once the bottles are made, filled and prepared for shipment, air pollution is an ongoing biproduct as pallets of these single-serve bottles are transported to consumers. According to the National Resources Defense Council:
In 2006, the equivalent of 2 billion half-liter bottles of water were shipped to U.S. ports, creating thousands of tons of global warming pollution and other air pollution. In New York City alone, the transportation of bottled water from western Europe released an estimated 3,800 tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere. In California, 18 million gallons of bottled water were shipped in from Fiji in 2006, producing about 2,500 tons of global warming pollution.
Furthermore, while these bottles are recyclable, most of them end up in landfills.
From creation to disposal, these bottles contribute to air pollution. And many of the chemicals that go into their production continue to leach out into the air and into the water they hold. (Phthalates, for example, which are endocrine disrupters and have been shown to cause reproductive harm in both males and females.) As several of the resources I consulted noted, plastic is forever. And even though this all holds true for soda bottles as well, it is clear that what appears to be a “healthy choice” may not be so healthy after all.
So while kids should be recharging with water and not sugary drinks while they are running around the soccer field, they also need to be pulling clean air into their lungs while doing so. Remember the days when soccer moms came loaded with reusable jugs of water, paper cups and orange slices, rather than cases of bottled water?
Concord’s ban on the sale of less than 1-liter plastic water bottles passed last week. I don’t know what, if any, impact it will have on the teeth and waistlines of my neighbors’ children. But as the facts show, it is a huge win for their overall health.
Whatever my initial doubts were about it being the right place to start, my husband was correct, “We have to start somewhere.”
To that I’ll add, “We have to start now.”
Photo credit: Dotjay