Plastic Bottles: The Need for an EIA

Since the 1970s, plastic bottles have become part of our lives [1].Nowadays, most people around the world would prefer drinking bottled water since they are promoted as a clean, safe and convenient alternative to tap water.

Here is a video introduced the general information of plastic bottles.


Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cUgIi2g8WA&w=560&h=315

The improper disposal of plastic bottles poses a number of health risks. One of the primary risks comes from the raw material, specifically the chemical component in the plastic bottles: Bisphenol A (BPA) and Phthalates [2]. They can dissolve into water in the process of packaging. They will ultimately emit into human body. It is highly possible that such chemicals would disrupt the endocrine system and lead to developmental problems [3].

Moreover, plastic bottles also have detrimental impacts on our environment, especially to the landscape and marine life. Why do plastic bottles represent such serious hazards to the environment? Indeed, most of them are buoyant, and people would dispose of them right after they use them [4]. Besides, we usually deal with plastic bottles by transporting them to another places. As a result, tons of pollution is being dispersed over long distances [8]. Finally, these contaminants settle in the sediment for centuries [5]. That is only one reason, plastic bottles also impact our air, water,soil and treasured oil resource as a whole [9].

Another video related to the effects of plastic bottles.


Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9axry-Y76w&w=420&h=315

In the marine environment, it is estimated that “10% of 200 million tons of plastic bottles produced annually ends up in the oceans” [6]. 70% of the waste in this configuration would eventually leave residue at the bottom of the seabed. This is damaging sensitive marine life on the ocean floor [6]. From this observation, I attempt to propose that such plastic waste that emits chemical contaminants would influence the health of the marine life in a similar way as they are impacting the human body.

Look at the following video about marine effects from plastic bottles.


Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rf5iHqT1Rzc&w=420&h=315

Actions must be taken immediately to address this environmental hazard. In my opinion, one fundamental action is to start with enforcing EIA to the plastic bottles manufactures. We need to assess plastic bottles impacts on the environment and sustainability. Meanwhile, it is a good measure to encourage manufacturers to investigate and research on new materials in production; Materials that have little health-risks impact on the human body and environment.

However, opinions on the safety of plastics vary. Despite over five decades of research, scientific consensus on product safety is still elusive [2]. Thus, alternative actions need to be taken. Stopping or cutting down the use of plastic bottles for water, soda beverages, sports drinks, and condiments such as vinegar and salad dressing would be one of the alternative actions [7]. Public awareness of such fundamental daily knowledge can also pay large dividends in resource protection and conservation [8].

We should move on from the 3Rs concept (reduce, reuse, recycle). The addition of the forth R, “Rethink” [2] at the systems level, as well as the fifth R: “Restrain” [2] to encourage measures at the policy and governance level would further reinforce our green living. I believe insisting on EIA is essential and vital to mitigate plastic bottles impacts. It is not only the responsibility of the government, but also the responsibilities of the industries and the individuals.

References:

1. Williams, Caroline. 2004. Battle of the bag . New Scientist. 183(2464): 30-3.

2. Halden, Rolf U. 2010. Plastics and health risks. Annual Review of Public Health. Vol. 3131, 179-94.

3. Walsh, Bryan. 2010. The perils of plastic. Time International (Atlantic Edition). 175(14): 30-6.

4. Goldberg E.D. 1995. The health of the oceans–a 1994 update. Chemical Ecology. 10: 3–8.

5. Hansen J. 1990. Draft position statement on plastic debris in marine environments. Fisheries. 15: 16– 17.

6. Vannela, Raveender. 2012. Are we digging our own grave under the oceans?. Environmental science & technology. 46(15): 7932-3.

7. Madren, Carrie. 2012. For some species, plastic is fantastic. Scientific American. 306(8): 23.

8. Derraik, JGB. 2002. The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: a review. Marine pollution bulletin. 44(9): 842-52.

9. Rustagi, Neeti, S. K. Pradhan, and Ritesh Singh. 2011. Public health impact of plastics: an overview. Indian Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine. 15(3): 100-3.

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