Banning Bottled Water

Banning Bottled Water

24 July, 2017
San Francisco
Returning water to its natural form
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Before you grab a bottled water from a vending machine, hear me out: plastic in the ocean breaks down into such small particles that, according to EcoWatch, pieces of plastic from a one-litre bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world. Anti-plastic bottle campaign Ban the Bottle found that Americans use 50 billion plastic water bottles in a year, while the American population recently topped 326 million. Having read such startling figures, do you still want to buy bottled water?

Let me rephrase the question—is banning packaged water feasible? The answer is "yes".

A ban on bottled water was enacted in Bundanoon, New South Wales, Australia in 2009. The University of Vermont in Burlington followed Bundanoon's footstep to become the first public college to enact such a ban. After that, as of late 2016, 82 high schools, colleges and universities across the world have implemented bottled water bans on their campuses. In late March, Hong Kong University introduced a campus-wide ban on the sale of plastic bottled water starting from July 1st, the first university in Hong Kong to pull this bold environmental move.

A city that has banned packaged water

Apart from the famous Golden Gate Bridge and meandering Lombard Street, San Francisco is also known for its progressive environmental policies.

At the end of 2016, the city amended its Bottled Water Ordinance enacted in 2012 to include the restriction of sale of packaged water. The renamed Bottled Water and Package Free Ordinance bans sales of any drinking water in a sealed box, bag, can, glass bottle, rigid plastic bottle or other container on city properties. City officers, departments or agencies are not allowed to use city funds to purchase packaged water for general use. Violators are subject to a fine up to $1,000.

Too used to the comfort of buying packaged water, you may wonder where else to get free water in a city. In fact, simply by encouraging the use of water refilling stations and increasing their accessibility, packaged water can easily be phased out from people's lives.

In San Francisco, there are currently 100 water refill stations in public schools and public areas installed by the city's Public Utilities Commission. On top of a GlobalTap water refill station is a number that shows how many plastic bottles its users have saved by opting for a refill. As even preschool children can and do use the water refilling stations every day, this nurtures a high awareness in citizens to bring reusable bottles with them anytime.

Here are some points to remind you why removing plastic bottles from your life is a better option:

1. Some (parts of) plastic bottles are not recyclable

Lids of plastic bottles often cannot be recycled, so you should remove them before recycling the bottles. The lid and bottle can be made with two different kinds of plastics, which means they have different melting points. If these two get mixed up, the recycling process may be less successful. Although the standards and instructions on recycling lids vary across countries, it's always advised to remove the caps before recycling. Always look for #1-#7 when recycling plastics.

Soiled plastic bottles may also contaminate the entire bin, so always wash them to remove residue before recycling. Workers separate soiled plastic bottles from clean ones before the recycling process begins. The cleaner your containers, the more they’re worth on the recyclables market.

To date, only 23 per cent of plastic bottles are recycled.

2. Some plastic bottles are harmful to humans

Plastic bottles that contain Bisphenol A (BPA)—an industrial chemical used to make plastic hard and clear—are harmful to humans. Researchers have found that BPA can leach into beverages from their containers at a certain temperature of the liquid or the container. Its harmful impacts include:

- hormonal imbalances and male reproductive dysfunction
- the production of several defects in the embryo, such as feminisation of male fetus and atrophy of the testes
- early puberty in girls, reduced fertility in women and premature labour

BPA-based materials for children aged 0-3 have been banned in Europe, Canada, Denmark and Belgium, but this is not a complete ban for the production of plastic bottles.

By banning the sale and use of plastic bottles, we're not only saving our planet, we're also saving ourselves.

If you want to be a part of saving our ocean which is normally contaminated with plastic waste, joins us here at Hong Kong Cleanup.

By: Angela Ng
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