Plastic bottles have been a topic of conversation for many years as people debate whether or not their use should be banned. The argument for banning is in part due to the fact that if not properly recycled their waste harms the environment. The blog post below discusses both sides of this and how the plastics industry has improved the design of bottles just recently.
Consumers should make sensible choices
Don Loepp | The Plastics Blog
Can we manage to use less stuff without resorting to bans?
The Trump administration took some lumps this month for reversing an
Obama-era policy that allowed a ban on plastic water bottles in national
Let’s take a step back and examine this from a common-sense point of view.
First, the ban itself was very limited. The National Park Service
adopted the policy in 2011, but the official stance was that the ban was
encouraged, but not mandatory. The policy had been implemented at just
23 of 417 park service locations. Also, the policy did not actually ban
plastic water bottles, but it did ban their sale.
Parks that went along with the ban had to install water bottle
filling stations and add signage letting visitors know where to find the
fountains. I assume those stations will remain, along with the message
to visitors that they should use refillable water bottles to help the
environment. That’s a great lesson that other public places, both
private and public, should emulate.
Also, the ban applied only to bottled water. Parks with the ban still
could, and did, sell other drinks packaged in plastic bottles, like
soft drinks. Why make it difficult for park visitors to drink water but
not unhealthy drinks? I acknowledge that’s also an argument in favor of
banning all drink bottles, but it’s still a valid point. If you’re
trying to reduce plastic bottle waste, why single out only one product,
and specifically one that’s healthy and important for the health and
safety of hikers and backpackers?
Finally, the target was supposed to be pollution, but it ended up
being plastic. Some national parks have a serious problem with litter.
But if water was sold in paperboard cartons, pouches, glass, aluminum
or, heck, paper bags, some people would still toss them on the ground
instead of disposing or recycling them properly. That’s a cultural issue
that needs to be changed.
This doesn’t mean I’m encouraging people to use single-use plastic
water bottles. I want to discourage everyone from buying them. Consumers
buy far too much bottled water and consume them even in places where
they can easily use a refillable container instead, like home and work.
Canteens and other refillable containers are the better environmental
choice; that’s a decision I make every day, and I hope others do, too.
But there’s a difference between encouraging the right behavior and
banning a product. There is a need for single-use packaging. Water
bottles are easy to recycle, and they have value to recyclers. And
today’s bottles are a lot lighter than bottles sold just a few years
ago, meaning they use a lot less PET resin.
I would like to see more states, or even the federal government, put
deposit systems in place to encourage recycling and discourage litter.
That would have a greater impact on the environment than the largely
symbolic policy that had been implemented in some national parks.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of The Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.