After years of hosting beach cleanups in the park, we’ve noticed a serious problem. One of the most common items of trash in the park and on the beach is empty plastic water bottles. The plastic is labeled as recyclable, which is good if it actually gets recycled. But littering the beach, or tossed in the woods, the plastic will not break down… true, it will eventually be crushed, flattened, and break into smaller and smaller pieces. The smallest bits will become so small they are referred to as micro-plastic. Guess what? Invisible micro-plastics are entering your drinking water because they are not removed by our public water utilities. Scientists have yet to determine the health consequences of consuming micro-plastics. Don’t forget the BPA chemicals in the plastic bottles…
So, why are we spotlighting plastic water bottles, when there is a lot of other trash on the beach/in the woods? Reducing or eliminating bottled water is one of the easiest ways to reduce a significant amount of trash each year in the environment. Consider using other water carriers: reusable stainless steel, aluminum, and thermos bottles. Plastic bottled water is necessary for communities lacking access to safe drinking water, but for many of us, it’s a convenience and could be used sparingly, when other methods cannot be adopted.
Plan ahead when you are spending time in Grant Park. If you bring water bottles in, then pack them out when you leave, because the park does not have a recycling program in place.
If you would like to dive deeper into plastic’s effect on the environment, our health, and social justice, author Daniel Jaffee, associate professor of Sociology at Portland State University has written a book: Unbottled: the fight against Plastic Water and Water Justice. You can hear Jaffee on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Central Time program… https://www.wpr.org/shows/central-time/american-girl-dolls-bottled-water.