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Winter Theme: Resources

Water, Water everywhere but what do you choose to drink?

We all know the outcome when we use our debit card or write a check but our checking account balance has too little money. That is one way to think about our natural resources. Mother Nature will renew and replenish soil, water and air, if given enough time and no more is going out of the system than is coming back in.

The human population (nearing 7 billion) on the Earth, particularly in the northern hemisphere, is now writing huge checks and drawing down the supply of natural resources. Here is one quick example of something we can do starting today.

Opening note: there are almost 900 million people on Earth who do not have a reliable source of clean fresh water. We are so fortunate to have sanitary mechanisms in place to ensure that 99.9% of the time, our water is clean, disease-free and abundant. To the point that we take it for granted and let’s face it, are then wasteful. In the Dayton area, we are truly fortunate that we have an incredible water supply that tastes good and is clean and fresh. 

Plastic is everywhere, cheap, easy, but it is also made from petroleum that is becoming more and more costly to extract. Those costs range from environmental degradation to the cost of wars in parts of the world that are oil rich. Do we really want to be held hostage for the sake of plastic? So there is one huge concern. Just to get a glimpse of the impact of plastics on life in today’s world, here is the abstract from an article in a recent journal series on the topic.

Another concern is that in now being relatively cheap and plentiful, it easily becomes trash. Trash that is a ubiquitous eyesore because the same properties that make plastic so convenient also make it nonbiodegradable; it does not breakdown and revert back into Mother Nature’s resource recycling system. So these so-called disposable plastic bottles are anything but that. Did you know that there is a gigantic mass of floating plastic debris swirling around in the oceans polluting a area several miles across and hundreds of miles from land? So there’s another part of the problem.

You have to admit some of that bottled water that has been sitting in a hot tractor trailer in a plastic bottle cooking for days or months, really does not taste like anything refreshing, it tastes like plastic residue. And there is another problem—that bottled water has to be filled at some factory and shipped via truck to the store and stored—all additional costs and unnecessary use of resources. So why would we want to spend money (a gallon of bottled water exceeds the cost of a gallon of gasoline) to buy water? Why indeed! Because the good ole marketing ploy worked 20 years ago and we have yet to figure out that the disposable (1), plastic bottles (2) of water that get trucked in from some source far away (3), that may or may not actually be better than Dayton tap water (4), costs us cash (5). Five fouls, well, it may not be a basketball game but that is an automatic “out of here”.

Michele Simmons with the City of Dayton recently made this cost comparison to show illustrate bottled water is more costly than gasoline:
1 gallon bottled water @ $.99/bottle = $7.49
1 gallon gasoline = $3.09
1 gallon Dayton tap water = $0.0048

It does not take a math wizard to figure out the bottom line here: buying water in plastic bottles is ridiculously more costly than drinking tap water. So, save your money, support national security and help the environment by just drinking good, clean Dayton tap water.  

So, what do you need to do? Simply buy long-lasting reusable containers for times when you are on the move and use durable, washable or compostable containers in at home or in restaurant-type settings. Find a container that you can easily identify as yours and put your name on it. Make it one that is easy to carry and clean. And you are ready...fill it with cool, clean, free tap water and you are showing how smart you are. Smart and liberated.  No more buying water and adding to the waste and pollution of plastics and free from forking over your hard-earned cash for something that is free! 

Discussion of Plastic Water Bottles

Using disposable plastic water bottles raises a number of issues which we will explore here.

  1. Human health

see: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences (2009): Plastics, The Environment and Human Health: Current Consensus and Future Trends. Embargoed copy. A copy from Interlibrary Loan has been requested.  

  1. Cost

Info from presentation in class this fall by Michele Simmons of City of Dayton: 

Save money—bottled water is more costly than gasoline. Dayton Water is the best deal!

    • $7.49 - 1 gallon bottled water ($.99/bottle)
    • $2.70 – 1 gallon gasoline
    • $0.0048 – 1 gallon Dayton tap water

Bottom Line: buying water in plastic bottles is 1500 times ridiculously (>1500 x) more expensive than getting water from the tap. 

Alternatives: buy long lasting alternative containers for traveling and use washable or compostable containers in stationary settings.

  1. Environment


  1. National Security

Plastic comes from petroleum, one of those fossil fuels (like coal and natural gas) that raise national security concerns. After all where does most petroleum come from? It comes from foreign countries, many who are hostile to the United States.

  1. Precautionary Principle

The precautionary principle says that if you are uncertain whether a product or service is harmful, it is best to be cautious. That is especially true when the potential consequences are adverse—in this.

  1. Conclusions


EWG Bottle Water Report→
Story about increase in plastic bottle recycling rates→

Dec. 9:
About 31% of bottled water and water cooler bottles were recycled in 2009, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources and the International Bottled Water Association. Although recycling rates have doubled since 2005, the rate is only a slight increase from 2009, when 30.9% of the containers were recycled, the organizations said in their new reports, "2009 Post Consumer PET Bottle Bale Composition Analysis" and "2009 Report on PET Water Bottle Recycling."

The usage of recycled PET resin has increased 37% as well, the organizations said. "Recycling rates for bottled water containers had a modest but positive increase in 2009; steady as we go," said Tom Lauria, vice president of communications at IBWA. "We´re glad to see a significant, 37% jump in the use of RPET, both in bottled water products and PET bottles in general.

The doubling of the recycling rates for bottled water containers over the past five years is encouraging but also a reminder that more needs to be done to expand recycling efforts and collection methods across the country."

Reports available:
Plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends (PDF)→
NAPCOR and APR Report Sixth Straight Year of PET Container Recycling Rate INcrease (PDF)→

PET and Sustainability→

See Michelle and Felicia’s presentation for local information on costs.

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Your daily actions speak louder than words.

How you can make a difference every day

In this column we will explore more topics, people, ideas and projects related to sustainability during 2015 – 2016.

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Just a couple of weeks to go! Recyclemania 2015 is coming to a close.

We are in Week 6 of our annual eight week RecycleMania competition. Clean out those files, clear those shelves -- be sure you are doing your part to Recycle as much as possible before the end of next week.

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Last updated: Mon. Jan-24-11, 21:43
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