SHORT STORY: Refilling a reusable bottle from the tap requires no expenditure of energy, and zero waste of resources. The best water bottle is made of a chemically inert substance, and you just can't beat stainless steel.
LONG STORY: When I brought a case of plastic water bottles to an early meeting of the Living Green Organizing Committee meeting back in 2009, I was almost deposed as coordinator. I thought since those bottles are recyclable that they were green (wrong!).
Americans consume 28 billion single use plastic water bottles per year. 80% end up in a landfill. The impact of that amount of trash is significant.
Even the 20% that are recycled take energy and water to remake new bottles from used ones. The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes. Making all of the plastic bottles for the US requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually. That's enough to fuel 100,000 cars.
Then there are the health impacts of drinking water sitting in plastic bottles. The big worry is the chemical Bisphenol A (aka BPA). BPA has been linked to a host of ailments including increased risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes and early onset puberty. The use of BPA is being slowly phasing out, but why wait until they discover that another chemical in the plastic is harmful?
Refilling you water bottle from the tap requires no expenditure of energy, and zero waste of resources. Umpteen studies show drinking filtered tap water is just fine (and a lot cheaper than bottled water).
The Good Human environmental awareness blog has a guide which ranks bottle choices from worst to best. Turns out the best water bottle is made of a chemically inert substance, and you just can't beat STAINLESS STEEL.
More on plastic water bottles
I got comments about the Kern River Courier 'Living Green' column I wrote recently about the plastic water bottles. Those are made from PET (Polyethylene terephthalate). PET plastics are coded with the code number "1" inside the universal recycling symbol, usually located on the bottom of the container.
Some could not believe that of the 28 billion single use plastic water bottles Americans consume each year, 80% end up in a landfill. That statistic came from the EPA but is nationwide, not just California. California leads the nation in recycling. In 2008, Californian’s turned in 7.5 billion beverage containers (an increase of nearly 600 million in 2007). According to Department of Conservation (which oversees the California Redemption Value “CRV” fee program), from January through June 2008, 63% of the PET plastic drinking bottles were returned for redemption of the CRV fees. For aluminum cans it was 85%; for glass bottles 79%.
After PET plastic bottles are collected, they are crushed, pressed into bales and offered for sale to recycling companies. If not sold, it ends up in a landfill. China has been the largest importer of recycled materials, like PET plastic. Those crafty Chinese use PET in the manufacture of consumer goods and packaging and then send back to us. It can’t make sense to ship things halfway around the world and back unless maybe we go back to sailing ships that don’t burn oil.
So, the main point I was making holds true.
Refilling a reusable bottle from the tap requires no expenditure of energy, and zero waste of resources.
So, we have ordered a custom shiny green 34 oz. (1 liter) stainless steel water bottle for our next Living Green event. Thanks to our sponsors, we can keep the price very reasonable: $5 each ($9 by mail). It is a different bottle, than the one we offered last March.
Since we ran out halfway through our first Living Green Festival (March 26-30, 2009), we decided to have a lot more bottles made, using it as our main promotional piece. I has the date and our new website on it too.
We’ll have the bottles at many events around the KRV prior to Living Green Kern River Valley in March 2010.
In a shift of position, the Food and Drug Administrationwww.fda.gov is expressing concerns about possible health risks from bisphenol-A, or BPA, a widely used component of plastic bottles and food packaging that it declared safe in 2008.
The agency said Friday that it had “some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children,” and would join other federal health agencies in studying the chemical in both animals and humans.
The action is another example of the drug agency under the Obama administration becoming far more aggressive in taking hard looks at what it sees as threats to public health. In recent months, the agency has stepped up its oversight of food safety and has promised to tighten approval standards for medical devices.
Concerns about BPA are based on studies that have found harmful effects in animals, and on the recognition that the chemical seeps into food and baby formula, and that nearly everyone is exposed to it, starting in the womb.
But health officials said there was no proof that BPA was dangerous to humans. “If we thought it was unsafe, we would be taking strong regulatory action,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the principal deputy commissioner of the drug agency, at a news briefing.
Nonetheless, health officials suggested a number of things people could do to limit their exposure to BPA, like throwing away scratched or worn bottles or cups made with BPA (it can leak from the scratches), not putting very hot liquids into cups or bottles with BPA and checking the labels on containers to make sure they are microwave safe. The drug agency also recommended that mothers breastfeed their infants for at least 12 months; liquid formula contains traces of BPA.
BPA has been used since the 1960s to make hard plastic bottles, sippy cups for toddlers and the linings of food and beverage cans, including the cans used to hold infant formula and soda. Until recently, it was used in baby bottles, but major manufacturers are now making bottles without it. Plastic items containing BPA are generally marked with a 7 on the bottom for recycling purposes.
The chemical can leach into food, and a study of more than 2,000 people found that more than 90 percent of them had BPA in their urine. Traces have also been found in breast milk, the blood of pregnant women and umbilical cord blood.
Reports of potential health effects have made BPA notorious, especially among parents, and led to widespread shunning of products thought to contain the chemical. Canada, Chicago and Suffolk County, N.Y., have banned BPA from children’s products.
The government will spend $30 million on BPA research in humans and animals, to take place over 18 to 24 months, health officials said at a news briefing on Friday.
Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said the research would involve potential effects on behavior, obesity, diabetes, reproductive disorders, cancer, asthma, heart disease and effects that could be carried from one generation to the next.
Activists on both sides of the passionately debated issue said they were disappointed in the government’s action. The American Chemical Council, which represents companies that make and use BPA, issued a statement saying BPA was safe, praising the health agencies as confirming that there was no proof of harm to people by it, but also saying, “We are disappointed that some of the recommendations are likely to worry consumers and are not well founded.”
Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women and Families, said the F.D.A. had not gone far enough, because its recommendations put the responsibility on families and not on companies making products containing BPA. In addition, Ms. Zuckerman said, the focus on safety should not be limited to children, because studies have linked the chemicals to heart and liver disease and other problems in adults.
Government evaluations of BPA have had a contentious history. The drug agency wrote a draft report calling it safe in 2008. But shortly after that, the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, said BPA was cause for “some concern,” citing the same issues that the drug agency is now agreeing to: potential effects on the brain, behavior and prostate in fetuses, infants and children.
Then the drug agency asked an independent panel of scientific advisers to review its draft report, and the panel gave it a scathing review. It accused the F.D.A. of ignoring important evidence and giving consumers a false sense of security about the chemical. The drug agency promised to reconsider BPA, and the announcement on Friday fulfilled that pledge.
“We are for the first time saying we believe there is some concern about the substance’s safety, and we’ve closed the gap between N.I.H. and F.D.A.,” Dr. Sharfstein of the F.D.A. said in an interview.
Dr. Sharfstein said the drug agency had become more receptive to new techniques of studying the safety of chemicals. Old methods involved giving test animals large doses and looking for clear evidence of effects like illness, tumors or organ damage. Newer methods involve studying small doses — similar to human exposures — and looking for more subtle effects, like changes in behavior or biochemistry. Results can be harder to interpret and may demand more study.
Dr. Sharfstein said the drug agency was also re-evaluating the way it regulates BPA. The substance is now classified as a food additive, a category that requires a cumbersome and time-consuming process to make regulatory changes. Dr. Sharfstein said he hoped its status could be changed to “food contact substance,” which would give the F.D.A. more regulatory power and let it act more quickly if it needed to do so.