What's the Environmental Impact of Single-Use vs. Reusable Water Bottles?

Single-use plastic is one of the significant contributors to environmental pollution, notably water pollution, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.  It’s no wonder the advocacy to ban single-use plastic bottles is stronger than ever. In 2018, the Guardian reported that 90% of bottled water contains microplastics. Therefore, banning single-use plastics can save the environment and human health.

To help you decide why you must switch to reusable water bottles instead of single-use plastic bottles, it is crucial to examine their environmental impact. 

Why Are Single-Use Plastic Bottles Harmful to the Environment?

Let’s cut to the chase: single-use plastic bottles harm the environment. 

Using Oil to Manufacture Single-Use Plastic

First, plastic bottles are made with oil. Manufacturing plastic bottles already causes tremendous environmental impact since it requires drilling, extraction, and refining of oil to produce it. Making disposable water bottles takes approximately 17 million barrels of oil annually. Plastic water bottles do not just cause direct harm to the environment but also contribute to inflated gas prices. 

Bottling of Single-Use Plastic is Harmful, Too

Second, the bottling process of single-use plastic bottles results in more carbon dioxide pollution. It adds to the negative environmental impact of plastic bottles on the environment.

plastic bottles will likely end up in landfill

Plastic Pollution and Threat to Wildlife and Marine Ecosystems

Once the single-use bottle is produced, it can be disposed of properly or improperly. Either way, it significantly impacts the environment as these plastic bottles will likely end up in landfill. As they accumulate in landfill, they burden the environment. Approximately 300 million tons of plastic is manufactured annually, and half is intended for single-use. That means roughly 150 million tons of plastic waste is in landfills or oceans.

The single-use plastic bottles thrown into the oceans and rivers are only in the first stage of causing environmental pollution. Once these plastics enter the waterway, they can cause harm to marine animals, killing seabirds and turtles every year. 

Even when reusable plastic bottles are manufactured these days, they can only be reused and recycled a certain number of times. They are unlike reusable water bottles that can last for many years. 

Plastic bottles in wildlife and marine ecosystems can seriously threaten the animals. Many animals mistake this plastic waste for food or can die when entangled in plastic waste. The more animals die from plastic waste, the more it disrupts the population and marine ecosystems. 

Plastic Takes Centuries to Decompose

Meanwhile, plastic bottles require up to 700 years to dissolve and decompose. And yet, they rapidly accumulate in the environment, filling up landfills faster than they can decompose. As a result, humans and nature can experience its adverse effects for several centuries. 

Resource Depletion

Another environmental impact of single-use plastic bottles is that many natural resources are utilized to produce them, such as water and fossil fuels. Continued production of plastic bottles can result in resource depletion, contributing to environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources available by a finite amount.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Manufacturing plastic bottles from end to end requires significant energy input. The process can also increase the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The higher the emission, the more it can exacerbate the environment resulting in extreme climate change, among other environmental effects. 

How to Mitigate the Environmental Impact of Single-Use Plastics

The negative environmental impact of single-use plastic can cause tremendous harm. Therefore, you can take these measures to mitigate these negative impacts.

  • Reduce or avoid the consumption of single-use plastic bottles. it helps to reduce the demand for plastic bottles and prompts manufacturers to make less of them.
  • Recycle plastic bottles. Even if you cannot reuse the bottle for drinking water, you should be creative in using it for another purpose to avoid wasting it.
  • Support businesses that advocate the ban on single-use plastic. It is a great way to encourage other companies to do the same.
  • Advocate for policies that prevent the use of plastic water bottles, or support existing policies that ban single-use plastics. 
Choosing a reusable water bottle is wiser.

What is the Environmental Impact of Reusable Water Bottles?

Reusable water bottles have gained in popularity as they offer a great alternative to single-use plastic bottles. When people are busy, it’s easy to choose what is convenient. And that’s why many people opt for a single-use plastic water bottle to stay hydrated.

However, choosing a reusable water bottle is wiser since it minimizes the negative impact on the environment. Instead, you can positively impact the environment by using reusable water bottles.

Since humans need at least eight glasses of water daily, you can only imagine how many plastic bottles one person needs to meet that daily requirement! It makes environmental sense to switch to reusable bottles to protect the environment.

By switching to reusable water bottles, Earth Day estimates you could save 156 plastic bottles by using a reusable water bottle. That is just for one person – imagine if most people choose reusable water bottles instead of buying plastic ones! 

The benefits of reusable water bottles are two-fold. First, you can reduce carbon emissions that arise from the production of plastic bottles. Second, you can also reduce the amount of plastic in a waste landfill. 

Reusable water bottles, such as stainless steel bottles, are recyclable. You can use them for several years since they are durable and damage-resistant. Therefore, you won’t have to buy a new one for several years, ensuring greater sustainability and reduced carbon footprint. 

Reusable water bottles are not just good for the environment but also for human health. Stainless steel and other reusable bottles are BPA-free and won't expose you to harmful toxins and chemicals. 

Not all reusable water bottles are created equal. Make sure you look into how reusable water bottles are manufactured and what materials are used to ensure they don’t have the same negative impact on the environment as single-use plastic bottles. If your goal is to help save the environment, it pays to give it due diligence to maximize those benefits.