As a student at Providence College, it is impossible to ignore the plastic water bottles found on desks. Students often justify the use of plastic water bottles by claiming that the water quality is better, and often follow-up with a promise of recycling. However, it has been continuously proven that these two justifications are untrue. Many students are surprised to learn that even if a plastic bottle is properly disposed of, there is no guarantee that it will be recycled. According to the Environmental Prevention Agency (EPA), about 29 percent of plastic bottles were recycled in 2018. Even worse, that same year only 8.7 percent of plastic was recycled, while the rest polluted our waterways and landfills. Scientists have already estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Despite these statistics, there is a huge lack of environmental awareness amongst students at Providence College. This disregard has led to much of our recycling going directly to the landfill because of contamination. Many students do not realize that recyclables have to be clean before they are put into the bin. Additionally, many are unaware of what can and cannot be recycled. For example, paper towels, plastic utensils, and plastic bags are not recyclable; however, they are consistently found in recycling bins around campus. Students should be better educated not only on this subject, but on sustainability in general, in order to become more aware of the harmful environmental consequences of their actions.
Plastic water bottles themselves are not the only issue, as their unsustainable production requires millions of oil barrels every year. Furthermore, during the transportation process, millions of tons of greenhouse gases are released into our atmosphere, contributing to climate change. It is ironic that the production of only one bottle requires close to two gallons of water. Not only is this extremely wasteful, but it also places a greater stress on our water supply. This is especially critical today as nations around the world, including the United States, are experiencing water scarcity. Some countries have already lost access to clean drinking water, which is only projected to worsen and spread due to future climate change.
While some argue that plastic bottles provide cleaner water than regular water from the tap, this is not the case, and it is a claim that is commonly used by water bottle companies to convince people to purchase their products. According to the CDC, tap water in the United States is safe to drink, having to meet the EPA’s water quality standards.
In the past, PC had a plastic water bottle ban on campus. Today, other colleges have similar bans in effect. Brown University, for example, has already banned disposable water bottles on campus through their Beyond the Bottle campaign. PC should follow these universities and re-establish the ban on plastic water bottles. There are multiple water filters installed throughout campus, making it easy and convenient to carry and refill reusable water bottles. With approximately one million plastic water bottles purchased every minute, it is undeniable that plastic pollution will continue to be a huge threat to our planet if the demand on plastic water bottles remains high. PC should take actions to help minimize this demand and our environmental impact as they have in the past.