Plastic Pollution
March 22 2012

Happy World Water Day!  What’s It To You?

by Bill Hickman

Today is World Water Day!  Founded in 1993 by the United Nations, this global observance highlights the need for the care and management of the world’s water resources. This year’s theme, “Water and Food Security” seeks to highlight the relationship between water and global food supplies.  While the larger issue of food production may seem removed from Surfrider Foundation’s mission of protecting oceans, waves and beach, they are very much linked. For example, fertilizers and pesticides used in current farming methods are polluting our ocean waters through runoff - a good reason to go organic whenever you can with your food clothes, etc.

When I think of World Water Day I think of the global water bottle epidemic and plastic pollution it has spawned. 

Plastic bottles were first available commercially in the years after World War II. The costs were relatively expensive and the United States was doing just fine with the milkman delivering in glass bottles and sodas available in returnable glass bottles. In the 1960’s the cost of manufacturing plastics dropped sharply and production increased as the industry expanded.  From the 1970’s through the 1990’s it seemed every liquid product became available in a plastic bottle or container. The most ubiquitous plastic bottled item is water. Seemingly non-existent in the 1970’s, the U.S. was buying half a billion bottles of water a week that cost 2000 times more than tap water by 2010. For a full overview of this manufactured demand check out The Story of Bottled Water.

Plastic bottles have advantages such as being lightweight, cheap, easy to shape and hard to break. Plastic bottles also have three big drawbacks in not biodegrading in our lifetimes if littered, potentially killing wildlife when littered and the fact that recycling has not reached its potential so many plastic bottles are littered or landfilled.  Here's a photo my buddy shot a couple of years ago on a remote beach in mainland Mexico littered with plastic bottle pollution.  Once bottles are littered near the beach, creek or river, they often migrate to the ocean over time, aided by rainfall.  Once in the ocean, they typically travel to one of the gyres or end up on a 'receiver' beach like this one.  (Photo: Bill Bailey)

Bottled water is often needed during an emergency or special situations but let's try to focus on bigger reusable containers rather than small disposable servings.  In the U.S. and many other places, tap water is heavily monitored and fine to drink.  If the taste is not to your liking, get a filter and help to take back the tap!  Think global and act local.

This World Water Day the Surfrider Foundation is offering special membership packages, check 'em out: