In one of my communication studies courses earlier this week, my classmates and I were giving persuasive speeches. Among the “we should lower the drinking age” and “why we should have the death penalty” arguments, one of my classmates gave a compelling speech about why we need to stop buying plastic water bottles. Her speech was full of great facts and examples and succeeded in persuading me.
Our reliance on one-use plastic water bottles has devastating effects on the environment. According to a study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, around 80 percent of all marine life interaction with plastic results in injury or death. It is possible that the plastic bottle that you do not recycle finds its way into the ocean, like much plastic pollution does, and kills already threatened or endangered marine life.
Of course, not everyone can completely ditch plastic water bottles. Bottled water is a basic necessity for some, like the residents of Flint, Michigan. Bottled water has become a means of survival for many Flint residents who live with the devastating effects of lead-infested water. However, here on Concordia’s campus, we are lucky enough to have access to free and clean water in our sinks and water fountains. Because of this luxury, we, as a community, need to limit our use of plastic water bottles.
Concordia College sells only one type of water bottles containing filtered water across campus. Aside from residence hall vending machines, Concordia sells water that is bottled and filtered in Canby, MN, in the Maize, the Korn Krib, and the Normandy Book Store.
I do not find the sale of one-use plastic water bottles on campus entirely necessary. But, in case of special circumstances or emergencies, I think that Concordia needs to limit their sale of their plastic bottles to one spot on campus. While water is a basic human necessity, and clean drinking water should be a right for all people, Concordia should consolidate the sale of their bottled water to one central location on campus to help reduce plastic waste.
In addition to changes at the institutional level, there are several steps that individual students can take to reduce the number of plastic bottles our school wastes. While I wish every student on campus would just use a reusable water bottle and get water from one of our many fountains across campus, I know it is not that simple. Reusable bottles can be lost or stolen. Reusable bottles cost money that not everyone is willing to spend. Say a student from East Complex forgets their water bottle in their dorm one morning and finds themself running around campus all day for classes. After classes, they swing by the Korn Krib and grab a bottled water. They jog to Olson Forum for practice. While I do not want this student to purchase a plastic water bottle, I do believe that they should be able to drink water.
Recycling plastic bottles can be one solution to this problem, but only if we make the active decision to locate a recycling bin rather than just tossing our bottles in the nearest trash can. According to banthebottle.net, the average American in 2016 used 167 disposable plastic bottles, but only recycled 38. Furthermore, utahrecycles.org found that Americans throw away 35 billion plastic bottles every year, and only about 25 percent of the plastic produced in the United States ends up being recycled.
I ask that all Concordia staff, faculty, and students make a pledge to reduce dependency on plastic bottles. If you must purchase a plastic bottle, please recycle it in one of campus’s many recycling bins. If you have the option, use a reusable bottle for your beverages.
If you find yourself in need of a reusable water bottle but don’t want to drop the money on a brand new one, make your way over to the Park Region Free Store and check out their selection. Or, head over to our campus book store and buy one there. Cutting out plastic bottles and utilizing a reusable bottle is a small but important step in helping reduce plastic waste in our landfills and oceans.