The great kidnapping of water by plastic


Progress Namibia - The great kidnapping of water by plastic
22 May 2017

The other day I was having an interesting conversation with a friend in Nairobi. We were, at the time, complaining about the use of plastic bottles in a workshop that speaks about sustainability. We were 30 odd people, probably consuming about 3 bottles of water each, which would ride up the tally of plastic to landfill of 270 bottles...in our little workshop alone. During this conversation he brought something up that I had not thought of before.

How many times have you had water left in your bottle, but you threw it away for what ever reason? And how many times did you tighten the lid on first before you threw it away? Every time anyone closes a lid on a plastic bottle of water (or any other drink come to think about it), that water is trapped in that plastic bottle for multiple lifetimes (in fact, 'forever' is probably a good term, as plastic bottles can take between 400 and 1000 years to decompose). Roughly 1500 plastic bottles end up as waste or are thrown in the ocean every SECOND. Now, whether there are a few drops trapped, or almost an entire full bottle worth, you can imagine that this trapped water accumulates quite exponentially. How much water are we trapping out of the system?

Today, when you take a sip of water, ponder this: that exact sip of water most likely passed through a dinosaur.

That is how closed our system is.

In your life, how much water have you drunken out of a plastic bottle? Think about it. Yes, its safer, you say. Its true, our tap water in Windhoek is so chlorinated that a glass would never pass a litmus test of alkalinity. But if bottled water can be cleaned and filtered, why can't the tap water be? Why is it that, the more normalised bottled water becomes (which should still be considered one of the biggest scams of our generation), the less onus is on our municipalities to make an effort and make our tap water drinkable and healthy? If each of us spent as much on bottled water (1000 times the price of tap water) on supporting our local water supply, then we wouldn't have this unnecessary waste of plastic and water in production, or trapped water out of our system.

Only 1 out of 5 plastic bottles are recycled. Bacteria, which helps in breaking down organic materials, don't like petroleum based plastics. Technically, they can last forever. It requires 3 times the amount of water to produce a plastic bottle than it does to fill it. More than 100 million plastic bottles are used worldwide every day. 90% of the cost of bottled water is due to the packaging (one-use!), not the water quality.

Next time you feel the need to buy plastic bottled water, think about this article. And think about why we live in a world that 'needs' plastic bottled water.

Photo credit: Justine Braby, an art piece at UN Nairobi of a wave made of ocean plastic bottles.