Plastic bottles are EVERYWHERE and are a big source of pollution. But banning them might create another problem for the environment. Here’s why.
TEACHERS: Get your students in the discussion on KQED Learn, a safe place for middle and high school students to investigate controversial topics and share their voices. Click to see this video and lesson plan on KQED Learn.
How did plastic bottles become such a problem
Early forms of plastic have existed since the mid-1800s. But when WWII came along, scientists diverted all their plastic technology to help with the war effort. So after the war, all this plastic needed to go somewhere, so why not the American consumer? What we got was a plastic explosion, and it’s never really stopped. That’s why today, it’s estimated that humans have created over 8 BILLION tons of plastic, most of which still exist. See, plastic doesn’t ever really break down completely or biodegrade -- it just breaks apart into smaller and smaller pieces over time. These tiny bits of plastic make their way into oceans, creating a plastic soup of pollution that can get into the bellies of all kinds of marine animals like fish, pelicans, and turtles. Some research studies predict that by 2050, pound for pound, plastics in the oceans will outweigh all the fish.
What are the pros and cons around banning plastic bottles?
About 70% of plastic water bottles bought in the U.S. are not recycled, and so end up in the oceans. On top of that, plastic bottles are made from fossil fuels. In fact, the Pacific Institute found that it took about 17 million barrels of oil to produce enough plastic for the bottles of water consumed by Americans in 2006. And since then, consumption has increased by 65%, meaning Americans need over 28 million barrels of oil to fuel their plastic water bottle needs for one year.