The continuum of the plastic bottle/container discussion

16 05 2010

My blog post How safe is Tupperware, and other plastic containers draws a lot of readers to this blog. Just as a follow up on this blog post, I would like to shed some light upon some of the comments made to that blog post.

First off, there’s this great website where you can find more information about the things I’ve discussed earlier (why plastic bottles are a bad choice, how some of the plastics used in plastic containers may affect your health etc.). There you can also buy stainless steel containers and mugs (the small parts made of plastic are made of polypropylene #5 plastic which is considered a safe plastic). Also check out their Health Resource Center for more information about how hazardous certain plastics can be. They also provide links to a bunch of great videos, among others this one:

This is the web page I’m talking about:

http://www.plasticfreebottles.com/

For an informative pdf-table called “Understanding Plastic Recycling Codes”, click here.

And regarding a question I got about Starbucks tumblers and mugs – the ones I’ve seen are made out of #7 plastic. Bottles and containers made out of that plastic are accused of leaching Bisphenol A, which might cause chromosomal damage. They market their tumblers nicely, however, as made out of a certain percentage recycled material. The question is: does the fact that the tumblers are made of recycled material negate the fact that it reads #7 on the bottom? (They do, however, have many different tumblers and mugs, so some might be made out of some other, safer, plastic.)

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Tap water vs. bottled water – which is better?

10 06 2009

I apologize for not having updated my blog in a long time. I moved back to my native country, I started working full time, I’m studying as well, and right now I have a nasty Rottweiler bite wound on my throat, so, in short – I’ve been busy. Being back in Finland has made me realize, among other things, how many people drink bottled water. And I know it’s even worse in Canada, not to mention in the U.S. Nothing bad against specifically those countries, obviously – they just happen to be countries that I’ve visited and where I’ve seen this behavior. I’m sure the same goes for a bunch of other countries as well! So, in order to have a good argument ready for when trying to make someone stop drinking bottled water I decided I needed to look up some facts. This is what I found:

Why you should drink tap water (a.k.a. why bottled water is bad):

1. It creates an enormous amount of plastic waste, and leaves an incredibly big environmental footprint.

Annual production of the plastic (PET or polyethylene) bottles to meet U.S. consumer demand for bottled water takes the equivalent of about 17.6 million barrels of oil, not including the cost of transporting the bottled water to consumers. That more or less equals the amount of oil required to fuel more than one million vehicles on U.S. roads each year. Worldwide bottling of water uses about 2.7 million tons of plastic each year. And in the end, about 86 percent of the empty plastic water bottles in the United States land in the garbage instead of being recycled. (Source: Food and water watch – Take back the tap)

UnrecycledWaterBottles

2. It’s expensive.

Last year Americans spent nearly $11 billion on over 8 billion gallons of bottled water. $11 billion!!! That’s A LOT! And I just can’t grasp the fact that so many students, who supposedly are “poor” and living on loans, still find excuses to buy bottled water. And how many families have extra money to spend on bottled water? They could just as well drink tap water, which can be up to a 1000 times cheaper. Tap water costs about $0.002 per gallon compared to the $0.89 to $8.26 per gallon charge for bottled water.

3. Tap water may be safer, cleaner and healthier than bottled water.

Companies that sell bottled water spend millions of dollars every year to promote their own product. They make you, the consumer, think that their water is extra healthy, and absolutely cleaner than the water that comes out your tap. This is usually not true. Tap water is regularly checked by the EPA as well as state and local governments, when bottled water is only checked by the FDA. And FDA standards are way behind EPA standards – a few examples (borrowed from Bottled water – Illusions of Purity):
– Municipal water is not permitted to contain E. coli or fecal coliform bacteria. FDA rules for bottled water include no such prohibitions.
– Municipal water from surface sources must be filtered and disinfected, or it must have strict pollution controls. There are no filtration or disinfection requirements for bottled water at the federal level. The only source-water protection, filtration or disinfection provisions for bottled water are delegated to the states, and many states have adopted no meaningful programs.
– Cities must have their water tested by government-certified labs. No certification requirement exists for bottlers.
– Municipal tap water must be tested for coliform bacteria 100 or more times a month. New York City takes 500,000 samples of its water per year. That’s nearly once a minute all year long. Bottled water plants only have to test once a week.

On that same page you can also read:
“Bottled water likes to sell itself as being pure in its little clear bottles, but the fact is nearly 40 percent of bottled water is tap water with added minerals or filtration and there’s no guaranteed safety just because it’s wrapped in plastic – and in fact there’s some risk. Municipal water has an advantage in that it is constantly moving, keeping fresh and avoiding stagnancy. Water bottles, though cleaned, are not sterilized. Relatively low amounts of bacteria at bottling can multiply to a much larger problem by the time bottles hit store shelves. Bottled water frequently is not chlorinated, allowing bacterial and fungal growth within the bottle.”

BottledWater3

4. The plastic used in the bottles can leak dangerous chemicals.

Among the risks with bottled water is the fact that plastics used to make the bottles is not safe, since it may leak hazardous chemicals into the water. Phthalate is a chemical often used in water bottles since it makes the plastic softer and less brittle. But when heated they begin to leach into the contents of the bottle – even the heat from leaving the bottle in a car a hot day may be enough. Most water bottles

are made from the resin #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) (a safe plastic if used only once). However, when reused, as they commonly are, they can leach chemicals such as DEHA, a possible human carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), a potential hormone disruptor. Phthalates can cause reproductive difficulties, liver problems and increased risk of cancer. While phthalates are regulated in tap water, the FDA maintains an exemption for bottled water. Also, because the plastic is porous you’ll likely get a swill of harmful bacteria with each gulp if you reuse #1 plastic bottles.
To read more about hazardous plastics, see my earlier blog post: “How safe is Tupperware?…”

Hazards with tap water:

Fluoride in tap water a health hazard

Is tap water a health hazard?

What to do:

Buy a good water filter.
Read more about water filtration here.
Water Filtration Guide

Buy a stainless steel reusable water bottle. kleankanteen.com – The original, eco-friendly, bpa-free, reusable stainless steel water bottles

Take the pledge to break the bottled water habit. Take back the Tap Pledge

Support funding for public drinking water and water treatment.

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READ MORE:

Common questions and answers about tap water.

Natural Resources Defense Council – “What’s on Tap? Grading drinking water in U.S. Cities”

The definitive bottled water site

Environmentalist study says tap water superior to bottled

SOURCES:

naturalpath.com – “Tap water vs. bottled water – which is better?”

Food and water watch

The Green Guide – Tapped out





Water vs. drought

19 04 2009

The UN Water Report “Water in a Changing World” (available here) predicts that in the year 2030 a lack of water can be reality for 3 billion people, if nothing is done to stop the climate changes! Today that’s the case for 1,5 billion people, so we’re talking a huge increase here!

Source: https://engineering.purdue.edu/GEP/Spotlights/WaterInitiative

Some facts:

– Almost all big river systems in the world are polluted, over half of them seriously.
– About 80 % of the diseases in the developing countries are directly or indirectly caused by a lack of clean water and water closets.
– Already today there are 300 million people in China drinking polluted water.
– During the past century there was a 300 % increase of world’s population while the water consumption has increased 600 %.
– Of the foreign aid given to the developing countries only 5-6 % go to the water and sanitary sector. At least the double would be necessary.
Every dollar invested in the water and sanitary sector brings in 5-12 dollars in improved health, cleaner environment and increased productivity.
30-40% of the water gets lost on the way because of leaking water pipes.

The resources should be used more efficiently, but not only that – they should also be distributed in a more fair and more environmentally friendly manner.

Source: http://transitioniow.org/2008/02/13/uk-catches-up-with-island/

Few of the developing countries can actually afford all the investments in the water and sanitary sector that would be necessary, so many of them collaborate with private companies, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. As an example I can mention Bolivia, who in 1999 gave all the rights to the water industry to two occidental companies for a period of 40 years. The result was that the price of water increased by 200 %, and a lot of poor families had to pay a fifth of their incomes just to have running water at home. Demonstrations followed and the government was forced to break the contract.

A good solution, proved successful by several countries, thereamong Finland, could be collaboration between the state, the municipalities, the private sector and local organizations. Then water and sanitary services can be provided at a reasonable price. But this requires the business to be transparent. This is not always the case today, even in industrial countries. Corruption is common – it is not uncommon that up to a third of the money ends up in the wrong hands.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ankraut/

According to researchers every human being on earth could be provided with 50 liters of water per day, but that would require a huge change in how the water resources are divided. And the needs of the poor (especially the women) would have to be met first. The situation today is quite different. In some areas the poor pay 10-30 times more for the water than the rich, who are connected to the water system. Similarly the rich farmers pay around one fifth of the full price for irrigation while small farmers pay the full price for insufficient amounts of water. An alternative would be to water with waste water, which Israel already does. Since food production consumes 70 % of the water resources globally (up to 80-90 % in some developing countries) more efficiency in water usage is needed!

Also in the industry the efficiency in water usage should be increased. In Denmark they produce 138 dollars GDP with one cubic meter of water, in the US 20 dollars and in India only four.

Conflicts related to water are rare. A global agreement on water resources does not exist, but there are over 400 bilateral and regional agreements, which work relatively well.

Source: http://watersecretsblog.com/archives/2006/08/index.html

One of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to halve the number of people who lack clean water by the year of 2015. This would result in 90 % of the world’s population having access to clean water. This goal will probably be reached. However, the sanitary goal will not be reached. Drilling wells has been more attractive than building water closets. Around 2.4 billion people are currently without a water closet, and this situation will not improve significantly by 2015.

The water usage varies a lot between countries. In the Netherlands, the UK and Uruguay people consume around 100 liters per person and day, in Finland 150-200 liters – while the consumption in Canada and New Zealand is as much as 700 liters! The biggest water consumers (in volume) are, however, the US, China and India.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrhappy8/

So – we all realize that something needs to be done! And everyone, that means YOU, can make a difference. Save water at home in any way you can. Don’t waste it!

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Sources used for this blog post:

The UN Water Report “Water in a Changing World”, published March 16, 2009

Article, “2030 kan 3 miljarder ha brist på vatten”, by U.B. Lindström, Hufvudstadsbladet, Sunday, April 19th, 2009





Was the Earth Hour call answered?

17 04 2009

Just thought I’d post a video showing how Earth Hour was celebrated around the world. Earth Hour took place the 28th of March 2009 at 8.30 pm.

I also want to remind you all to keep living green :) And here are some tips on how to do that, courtesy of WWF – The Good Life.

April is spring cleaning month – a time to get your home and garden ready for the warmer months ahead. It is also the perfect time to make some changes in your life to lighten your footprint on our planet! Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Enjoy the warmer weather and fresh spring air by walking and/or cycling more, instead of driving. If you walk or bike daily, you can save as much as $3,000 a year in gas, vehicle maintenance and parking!

2. Get your garden ready for summer by composting your kitchen and yard waste in your backyard. Or, if it’s offered, separate your organic waste for weekly composting by your municipality.

3. Fight climate change by washing your clothes in cold water. They’ll be just as clean and you’ll save a lot of energy. Almost 90 per cent of the energy used to wash clothes goes into heating the water!

4. Instead of using your energy-guzzling clothes dryer, use a clothesline to hang up your clothes to dry. After the refrigerator, the clothes dryer is the top energy-using appliance in the house!

5. When your light bulbs burn out, make sure you replace them with CFL bulbs. CFL bulbs are 75 per cent more efficient and last eight times as long as standard bulbs!

6. Did you know that the average food item travels more than 2,000 kilometres before reaching your plate! Reduce greenhouse gases by filling your plate with locally grown fruits and vegetables.

7. When shopping, take a collection of reusable shopping bags with you so you’re not using plastic bags, which create waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Remember, bags take from 20 to 1,000 years to break down!

8. After cleaning out your closets, donate your pre-loved items to a charity shop or invite your friends over for a clothing swap. Remember to re-use, repair, and re-wear clothing to reduce your fashion footprint!





Green Living

7 04 2009

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about green living, and I’m getting more and more inspired to green my own ways of living. I wanted to share some of what I’ve read with all of you.

recycle

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8 Easy Ways to Start Being Green – Earth911

1) Reduce – use less stuff!
2) Reuse
3) Recycle
4) Power Down – reduce your use of electricity
5) Don’t be a Drip – reduce your use of water
6) Shop Smart – look for environmental friendly, locally produced alternatives, minimal packaging etc.
7) Don’t Tire Down – tires at the proper pressures reduce gas mileage and are more durable
8) Be a Show-Off – ask for environmental friendly alternatives at your local shops

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Steps towards a more sustainable life of less – ZenHabits

simple-and-sustainable-life

Article about whether we could (and/or should) start living in a more sustainable fashion – a life of less! We should buy less stuff, use less electricity (by, among other things, ditching the car and start walking/cycling places again) – and start enjoying the simple things in life – the nature, the food, the people we love… This article makes you question your own living – do you really need all that stuff you have? Do you need to use your car all the time, or are you just lazy? Do you need that big house that is not only less friendly towards the environment (considering the amount of electricity etc. needed) but also costs more to build, maintain..?

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Are e-books an environmental choice?

This article is for all of you book lovers out there!

So, to sum up the article – e-books are more environmental friendly than printed books – but only if you compare them to new books.

“As usual, the greenest way to go is reuse—buying used books online won’t do your favourite author any favours, but Mother Earth will smile on you for the estimated 3 kg of carbon emissions you’ve averted by not buying a new book. (Seventy percent of those emissions are released in the course of simply producing the paper it’s printed on.)”

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Green Your Home Through Low-Impact Living

Find green products, calculate your impact and learn how you can reduce your environmental impact.

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Sustainable Living Guide

A big guide with links to sites about ANYTHING you might want to know about sustainable living!

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Tips for Green Living – Greenpeace

My favorite! Here you can find tips on how to green your home (concrete tips, which makes it good reading), and what to avoid the next time you shop etc… Really interesting reading!

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green-living

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The Green Guide – For Everyday Living

Also a good site, with a lot of tips about green living, health and safety… They have buying guides for most things (refrigerators, washing machines etc.) where they compare the environmental impact of the different appliances, tell you what to think about and other useful things… Really interesting reading!

Examples of articles:

Which flatscreen TV is greener? Plasmas vs. LCDs

Plastic Containers Buying Guide

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One Million Acts of Green

Canadian project to activate people and to make them more environmentally conscious.

“CBC and The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos want to mobilize Canadians to do One Million Acts of Green. In partnership with Cisco, the idea behind the campaign is that one small act can make a big difference.”

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Lastly, some tips on how to green your office:

8 ways to green your office – Earth911
How to make a recycled notebook
Green office supplies and products





EARTH HOUR 2009

27 03 2009

Tomorrow is one of the most important days of the year.

Earth Hour 2009 is taking place – and YOU can be a part of it!

Earth Hour

So at 8.30 pm (local time) on Saturday the 28th of March, no matter where you are

– TURN OFF YOUR LIGHTS FOR ONE HOUR!

Sign up for Earth Hour 2009 on your own local WWF site.

LEARN MORE ABOUT EARTH HOUR AT

WWW.EARTHHOUR.ORG





How safe is Tupperware, and other plastic containers?

18 03 2009

There has been a lot of talk about what plastic is safe to reuse, and what is not. Well, I’ve looked it up, and I’m now going to present you with the facts.

First of all, there are different sorts of plastic, used for different purposes. They are categorized in accordance with what raw material was used to produce the product. Here are the different categories:

plastics6

According to The Green Guide, a website and magazine focusing on promoting greener living and owned by the National Geographic Society,the safest plastics for repeated use in storing food are from categories 2, 4 and 5.

Tupperware. Most Tupperware containers are made from #4 or #5 plastics. However, some of their products are made from polycarbonate, #7, which has been shown to leak the harmful, hormone-disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) into food items after repeated use. The following Tupperware products are made from polycarbonate (#7): the Rock ‘N Serve microwave line, the Ice Prisms line, the Meals-in-Minutes Microsteamer, the “Elegant” Serving Line, the TupperCare baby bottle, the Pizza Keep’ N Heat container, and the Table Collection (the last three are no longer made but might still be found in your kitchen).

The Sheerly Elegant Line

The Sheerly Elegant Line

Ice Prisms Pitcher and Tumbler set

Ice Prisms Pitcher and Tumbler set

The Rock'n'Serve Line

The Rock 'N Serve Line

Bisphenol A (BPA). So what is BPA really, and how harmful is it? Bisphenol A is a key industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate, which is a hard, clear plastic. Studies made by governments in the US, Europe and Japan, as well as studies conducted by academic researchers and by industry, show that under typical use conditions, the migration of BPA into food is extremely low. The more I read about this topic the more sources I find that tell me there’s no reason to worry about migration of harmful amounts of BPA into food when using #7 plastic food containers.

In my opinion, there is more reason to worry about some of those other categories, like #1 and #3.

#1 PET bottles. How many of you have NEVER used a PET-bottle more than once? Not many I guess. Most of us use these bottles more than once. As for me, I do not drink soda drinks, but I do drink water, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a nice/cool looking water bottle, with the purpose of reusing it several times before throwing it out. Normally I drink tap water, but since I’m one of those people who carry a water bottle wherever they go I do buy water bottles for this purpose. This will stop NOW. I took a look at the water bottles in the store last time I was there, and turns out almost every single one of them was made out of #1 plastic. Bottles made from this plastic are proven to leak carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting phthalates when used over and over again.

#3 PVC plastics. PVC can leak cancer-causing dioxins, which is one of the most toxic environmental pollutant there is. PVC is found in a wide range of consumer products, such as packaging, credit cards, bottles and imitation leather, as well as in construction material, such as window frames, cables, pipes, window blinds, wallpaper and flooring. In addition to that it is used in car interiors and in hospitals, as medical disposables. However, PVC does not only leak harmful additives during use (recent testing has showed that children can ingest hazardous chemicals from PVC toys etc) – already the production of PVC creates and releases dioxin and PVC products continue to leak harmful additives during disposal, when they’re burned or buried. Burning creates and releases more dioxins and compounds containing chlorine, which further contaminates the environment. Furthermore, phthalates are present in this category as well. They are added to PVC to make it soft and flexible. PVC is difficult to recycle, resulting in much of it ending up in landfills – which we all know is the least favorable outcome from an environmental point of view. Governments and industry are taking action to eliminate PVC. Danish and Swedish governments are restricting PVC use, hundreds of communities worldwide are eliminating PVC in buildings and many companies such as Nike, IKEA and The Body Shop have committed to eliminating PVC from their products. Many deli items are packed in PVC plastic containers, so swapping foods out of such wraps one the groceries are home is advicable.

#6 plastics (polystyrene, also known as styrofoam). Containers made of polystyrene can also be dangerous, as its base component, styrene, has been associated with skin, eye and respiratory irritation, depression, fatigue, compromised kidney function, and central nervous system damage. Take-out restaurant orders often come in polystyrene containers, which also should be emptied into safer containers once you get them home.

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So, if your head is spinning and you don’t know which plastics are safe and which are not – use glass containers, like Pyrex, and stop worrying! ;)

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Sources: (other than the links found in the blog post)

What material is used in Tupperware products

Earth Talk – How safe is Tupperware?

More to read:

Dangers of heating food in plastic – goodhousekeeping.com

Bisphenol A – fact sheet – Government of Canada

Plastics and the Microwave – U.S. Food and Drug Administration

European Food Safety Authority re-evaluates safety of Bisphenol A and sets Tolerable Daily Intake