I’m talking about disposable water bottles. The kind of thing that is cheap to produce, feels cheap to use, and doesn’t bother most people to simply throw away after one use.
When you think about the amount of work that goes into creating a plastic bottle, for example, and the value it still has after one use, it seems a little silly to just throw it away. The materials have to be harvested, and brought to a factory to be refined. That material then has to be transported to the factory where it is made into a bottle and filled with water – or whatever the drink is – to then be shipped to the store where it is bought and consumed. After it is consumed, it is instantly thrown away (sometimes recycled) so it can be transported to the nearest landfill and dumped in a big pile with all of the other single use items. Why is this such a commonplace and uncontested process in our society?
I think it is caused by a few factors:
For the thirsty consumer, there is nothing easier than going into a store, picking up a bottle of water for practically nothing, guzzling it down, and chucking it in the bin. You are hydrated, you are not burdened before or after by carrying a bottle around, and you can do this anywhere in the world.
It is hard to dispute how cheap it is to both produce and purchase plastic water bottles. The materials are cheap, there is so much competition in production that the prices are incredibly low, and that makes the price for the consumer very affordable.
This one is less frequently talked about, but just as important as the others. It is an especially important factor when travelling in less developed countries, as I have been for several months. The fact is that a sealed plastic bottle of legally-guaranteed-to-be safe water is very comforting. We enjoy the peace of mind that comes with 100% certainty. While this is important to consider, it is sometimes overblown and unnecessary. For example, in Southeast Asian countries, tourists really only drink water from brand new, sealed plastic bottles. This is partly because of availability (chicken or egg?) and partly because when you are travelling, the risk of sickness is highly increased, and anything you can do to decrease it is welcomed. Buying plastic bottles is a surefire way to stay healthy and safe. But are they?
All of these factors play a role in the trend of single-use water bottles. Finally, I believe there is an underlying theme in all wasteful practices. The desire for something to be for you and only you. The individuality factor cannot be overlooked. Here is why:
Luxury products almost always have this individuality appeal. The very top end of products usually are custom-tailored for the purchaser (I’m talking about homes, yachts, suits, you name it. The pinnacle of luxury). This idea, naturally, trickles down in the marketing to medium and eventually to low cost products. It is not necessarily explicit or conscious, but all of us have a desire to have products custom made for us and only us. We don’t really want to share, because the most successful and wealthy people don’t have to. While this may sound extreme in the case of plastic bottles, I think that the role of this psychological desire cannot be overlooked. We are transitioning towards a sharing economy. Who likes the feeling of drinking from plastic anyway? Let’s welcome it and be happy!
Oh, and let’s stop using these f*cking plastic bottles.