Consumers and the industry play vital parts in keeping waste out of oceans. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA, bottledwater.org) is recognizing World Oceans Day today, June 8, by highlighting the industry’s reduction in plastic use, and educating consumers about ways they can help keep waste out of our oceans and litter off our shorelines.
“Although only a very small amount of ocean waste originates as litter, this amount can be significantly reduced if industry continues its innovative efforts to lightweight its plastic bottles and consumers increase their efforts to recycle their empty bottled water containers,” saof Jill Culora, IBWA vice president of communications.
World Oceans Day is an opportunity for people around the world to celebrate and honor the ocean, which connects us all, say organizers. Hundreds of events are held globally appreciating the oceans. Activities include shoreline exploration walks, coastal cleanups and boating events.
A common misperception is that bottled water plays a significant role in ocean plastic pollution, but the facts show differently. Bottled water is one of thousands of food and beverage products packaged in plastic. And in the past 10 years, the bottled water industry has achieved tremendous plastic resin reduction usage through lightweighting its containers.
“Bottled water containers are 100 percent recyclable––even the caps. We recommend people empty their bottles and replace the caps before placing them in a recycle bin,” Culora said.
“PET plastic (which is used for most small-pack bottled water products) is a valuable material and should not be wasted in landfills.”
The biggest contributor to ocean trash is mismanaged waste, which is essentially garbage that is thrown directly into rivers by countries that lack waste management systems.
Published research from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ identifies the largest sources of ocean plastic pollution: 90 percent of it originates from 10 major river systems in developing regions. Eight of these rivers are in Asia, and two are in Africa.
This new research by Christian Schmidt, a hydrogeologist, supports IBWA’s view that restricting the sale of bottled water in North America––which has both waste management and recycling systems––will have little or no impact on the ocean plastic issue.
Supporting research by University of Georgia Professor Jenna Jambeck found that approximately 83 percent of ocean plastic waste comes from just 20 countries, with China being the highest contributor, at 2.43 million metric tons of plastic waste per year. The U.S. is responsible for 0.07 million metric tons per year.
To help combat the ocean plastics issue, IBWA is working with its partner Keep America Beautiful to educate consumers about the importance of recycling.