Science- Physics

One World: Secrets Behind PET Bottles

 

Stop and think. Do you really want to buy that bottled drink? Just by pressing one button on the vending machine, you are impacting the environment. Plastic, specifically PET bottles, is currently a major global issue we face today. There are many bodies of water in various countries littered with plastic bottles and  influencing the environment as a whole. Without an effective solution to this problem, these plastic materials will take up large landfill space, will increase the extinction of marine animals and diverse wildlife due to the leaked chemicals, use more energy and the growing of pollution as well as greenhouse gases from the carbon footprint of these bottles. Here at Canadian Academy, a rapid increase in the consumption of pet bottles has been observed as well. The overuse of these bottles in our school may originate from the students’ unawareness of the impact when buying PET bottles and beliefs on how recycling solves all the problems. This issue is relevant to me since I come across plastic bottles daily and it is something we can help to solve with a simple act of action, like recycling. 

In order to observe how Canadian Academy contributes to this issue of overconsumption of plastic bottles, I have gathered statistics of the total amount of PET bottle consumption at our cafeteria and how much PET bottles we recycle each month from 2010-2012 (so far). It was estimated that 2000 bottles are consumed at the least and 3000 at the most per month (Canadian Academy, 2012). As for the recycling statistics, we were able to collect data of the plastic bottles from Ms. Nishizawa, the head of Eco-Club, in which she recorded the amount of PET bottles recycled each month.

Figure 1: Monthly Statistic on Amount of PET Bottles Recycled 2010-2012

The graph above shows the amount of bottles recycled at CA per month from 2010 until now. July is not included in the data because we do not have school at that time period since school is closed for summer break. Looking at the graph, it is evident that the recycling process is not constantly done due to the nonlinear graph. The data represents how CA students do not decide to recycle the plastic bottles they consume, which is a big problem. Consuming PET bottles is bad enough, but throwing them away instead of recycling makes things even worse! Recycling can help save landfill spaces and reduce it’s impact on the environment. It is said that recycling one plastic bottle can save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for six hours (National Geographic, n.d.). But shown from the statistics, only a small amount of bottles are recycled out of the 2000 to 3000 PET bottles consumed at CA. It is evident that we will have to bring more awareness of recycling and motivate students to consume less bottles. It is also apparent that in certain months, the amount of bottles recycled is large. This may be because there were more consumptions of PET bottles as more students are thirsty from the warmer weather or from the help of Earth Week. Since Earth Week takes place for a week during April, many students may have been motivated to recycle.

Table 1: Total Number of PET Bottles Recycled in Canadian Academy and Amount of Money Received for Recycling 2010-2012

The table shows the total amount of PET bottles recycled per year from 2010-2012 and the money the school has gotten back in reward for recycling. We can see that the total amount of bottles recycled has decreased greatly from 2010 to 2011. This may be due to the fact that students are consuming less or students have become more lazy to recycle the bottles they have bought. Because the whole recycling process has been introduced to CA at around 2010, many students may have been excited to this new invention. But as recycling became normal, the majority of these bottle consumers do not bother recycling as much as they used to. We may be able to solve this problem by spreading awareness of how much these plastic bottles impact our environment.

Although a global issue, there are many solutions to the overuse of PET bottles that can be performed immediately at our school. This includes recycling, reducing the amount of pet bottles in our school (up-cycling, water bottles), and  simply spreading it’s awareness. Recycling is an excellent way to decrease the effect these plastic bottles are having on the planet. It’s easy, simple, and in many areas, you can earn money! Some benefits of recycling are that it: saves energy, reduce landfills, protects the wildlife, is good for the economy, and helps the climate problem occurring presently (Recycling, n.d.). But when we insert a bottle into the recycling bin, where does it go? Bottles are transferred to a materials recovery facility (MRF) where high-tech machines are used to perform the process of recycling. The plastic bottles that were collected are first condensed into bales, which is then shipped to be grounded into small flakes with a bale breaker machine (Earth911.com, n.d.). The end product will either be used to produce new materials, such as clothing and blankets after it is spun into thin thread or sent to companies to remake plastic bottles once again. Some may say you are producing more carbon dioxide in the process of recycling but actually, it helps our environment by pretty much a lot. According to Earth911.com, recycling 1 ton of plastic saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Not only that but it takes about two-thirds less energy to produce new plastic materials from these recycled bottles than making products from raw materials (Cernansky, 2009! Recycling should be encouraged more in CA and may want to increase the amount of recycling bins throughout the school to motivate more students to recycle. By providing more bins, it may increase the chance students will recycle than throw away the bottles, but it will also increase the jobs for students to collect bottles from each bin to send it to the recycling companies.

Another solution may be to simply reduce the amount of pet bottles consumed and sold throughout the school. The problem of these plastic bottles is not that we are not recycling but because it takes lots of energy to produce each and every one of the products. According to National Geographic, it takes a quarter of the water bottle worth oil to produce the bottle. That is a great amount considering the scarce source oil is becoming and we are constantly producing thousands of bottles each day. As plastic is 100% non-biodegradable, people tend to toss them away in the ocean or landfills where it takes years to fully decompose. Also the carbon footprint of pet bottles impact our environment and pollutes the air. Just one water bottle needs 6.74 gallons of water and a liter of fossil fuel for its production and transportation, but is also responsible for the emission of 1.2 lb of greenhouse gases (Lovejoy, n.d.). Think about it, shouldn’t you rather drink out of the water fountain than produce this much damage to the Earth because of only one bottle? For those who still are not convinced of consuming less plastic bottles, reusing pet bottles by producing new materials is good as well. This is also called up-cycling. As shown above, plastic bottles are firm enough to support a school and actually 3 times stronger than concrete. We can take this idea into the school by starting clubs or even a FLEX block for up-cycling and making crafts out of these bottles. This may need to be discussed by the teachers but is something that could be done. Although, it may take time for the club or group to develop and raise it’s awareness. Overall, producing products out of these bottles and reducing the consumption of plastic bottles can help save more space for landfills, reduce pollution, and become beneficial to people.

Sample Poster:http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_TwzrslUv
8wQ/TQ8pEZOy3CI/AAAAAAAAAE4/tru00R2KjJE/s16
00/BottledWater.jpg

Lastly, it may be most effective to raise awareness of the harm the plastic bottles are causing to the environment. Most of the students at Canadian Academy are unconscious when consuming the PET bottle. We can inform these people about the impact by putting posters on the vending machines or making short videos about the process of producing one bottle. As I have said previously, it takes lots of energy to produce plastic bottles. The whole process of productions, extraction, shipping the bottles uses a great amount of oil. Not only that but some of the recycled bottles do not even get recycled but are abandoned in countries, also known as down-cycling, producing mountains of unwanted plastic bottles that are no use. People try to clear up this landfill space by using incinerators to burn the bottles to regain space, which emits toxic chemicals and gases (Lovejoy, n.d.). If we could put posters up around Canadian Academy including information about the disadvantages of consuming a plastic bottle, it may be an incentive for students to avoid consuming PET bottles.

These solutions to the overconsumption of plastic bottles relate to both the heath and environmental ‘One World’ issues. Generally, all the people who decide to consume less of the PET bottles will be effected by the implementation of the solution.

The solutions will most definitely impact the environmental factor of the ‘One World Issue’ in both a positive and negative manner. With the reduction of the plastic bottle usage, it will help decrease the amount of plastic bottles polluting the water and air, but will also prevent wildlife habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity. Reduction of the PET bottle consumption will result with less emission of greenhouse gases and increase in conservation of natural resources like timber, water and minerals (Recycling benefits, n.d.). According to Lovejoy, a 1-liter water bottle uses 6.74 gallons of water  and a liter of fossil fuel in its production and transportation. By choosing not to consume a bottled drink, you are reducing the amount of gases and toxic chemicals released to the environment. Yet, recycling is the one solution that causes the most impact on the environment. According to Cernansky, “the national recycling rate of 30% reduces greenhouse gas emissions as much as removing nearly 25 million cars from the road!” This would mean that recycling would benefit both the air and water as it reduces the amount of pollutants in each of the areas. Also, this would mean that we could save much of our natural resources and would preserve our scarce resource of oil. But it has been researched that most of the recycled bottles are down-cycled to various countries and are taking much of the land space. To gain back some of the land, people would burn them in incinerators enabling toxic chemicals to be released in the air. Although according to Recycling benefits, recycling and composting had removed about 70 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators in just ten years from 1990. Some negative impact these solutions could result with, may be the increase in factories for the recycling process which would take a lot of the land and possibly natural habitats. But overall, the solutions of recycling and reducing the consumption of plastic bottles can cause mostly cause a positive impact on the environment.

Health is another factor of the ‘One World Issue’ that would be affected by the solutions to decrease overconsumption of plastic bottles. Consuming less plastic bottles will help the health of people all across the world as fewer bottles need to be produced. As the production of bottles decrease, less toxic chemicals and gases will be released into the air resulting with a positive outcome of breathing cleaner air and improving the human health. Also, studies have shown that tap water is safer and people preferred tap water over bottled water for it’s taste. According to eHow.com, bottled water does not require disinfection and filtration unlike the tap water, which undergoes the process of disinfection and filternation, as well as bacteria testing and tests for Cryptosporidium viruses. Thus by drinking out of tap water, it may be safer than drinking out of bottled water which may be contaminated. Although we have to make sure we do not reuse the same PET bottle that has not been properly cleaned. Most of the plastic bottles are produced from Polyethylene Terephthalate, also known as PET or PETE (Lovejoy, n.d.). Health problems could be identified when one reuse these PET bottles. According to scientists, the reusing of PET bottles becomes a problem as the plastic break down and leach phthalates into the water they hold. By consuming the water with the leached chemical, it could have various health problems in our body like liver problems and for women, giving birth to boys with smaller genitalia (Lovejoy, n.d.). And so, even if reusing plastic bottles help reduce it’s consumption, do not reuse them but instead get a water bottle which is much more safer for your body. Thus, the solutions to this issue of overconsumption of PET bottles affect the health of us human beings both in a positive and negative way.

In a nutshell, recycling, reducing amount of plastic bottles, and spreading awareness are actions we could perform immediately at Canadian Academy to help solve the issue of overconsumption of pet bottles.  These actions should be implemented by simply placing more recycling bins, encouraging students to bring their own water bottles or reducing amount of vending machines, and placing posters of the impact these plastic bottles make. These actions are basically up to the students and facility themselves to take action, if they want to help their own planet. You should avoid the consumption of PET bottles and inform others around you the benefits of not buying plastic bottles. These actions could be performed by the community by using your own water bottles, recycling properly, and spreading awareness of the pet bottles impact to the world. It could be lead by just about anybody in the world who has access to plastic bottles and is willing to help the environment by decreasing the amount of bottles they buy daily. The proposed solutions are likely to have a positive impact on the problem of plastic bottles because it’s very eco friendly and by reducing the consumption of pet bottles, it would lead to less pollution and contamination of both the water and air. Also, plastics already use up lots of space for landfills so it’s reduction will be beneficial. As these solutions to the issue like recycling, consuming less and raising awareness are simple tasks, start to take action now!

Bibliography

Allan, S. D. (n.d.). Directory: Blest Machine recycles plastic back into oil-PESWiki.
…..Main Page – PESWiki. Retrieved May 13, 2012, from http://peswiki.com/
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Canadian Academy. CA’s Environmental Footprint Google Spreadsheet.
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Cernansky, R. (2009). When recycling is bad for the environment . Discover
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Lovejoy, B. (n.d.). Facts about plastic water. eHow.com. Retrieved May 13,
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Plastic Recycling Facts. (n.d.). Earth911.com – Find Where and How to
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Plastic water bottles: really bad for the environment. (n.d.). Fitness, health
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Recycling. (n.d.). 5 Reasons Why People Don’t Recycle and 5 Reasons They
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Recycling benefits . (n.d.). A recycling revolution. Retrieved May 13, 2012,
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Reusing plastic bottles – reusing plastic bottles can pose serious health hazards.
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Wills, A. (n.d.). 360: Recycling plastic bottles. Earth911.com- Find Where and
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Self Evaluation:

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2 thoughts on “One World: Secrets Behind PET Bottles

  1. A nicely done piece of work, Yurika. You have addressed the issue of PET bottles in a local and global context and have looked closely at our impacts here at CA. Your have made some decent suggestions for solutions and some of them may be actionable. You’ve used and cited a range of sources in the text. Did you produce the SlideShare yourself? I can’t see a byline or citation – please add a note or introduction with it. Your bottle school image is also missing. However, well done.

    • Hello Mr.T,
      I produced the SlideShare myself and included the citations at the bottom of each slide. I’m not sure why the bottle school image is missing…
      Thank you

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