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