The following was written by Meredith Mattlin, Margaret Mao and Julia Burzynski, 11th-grade MHS' Science Research course members. It is meant to publicize the harmful effects of using plastic bottles.
Although environmentally “green” methods to life have been in the spotlight in the media and daily life, a main concern that hinders the sustainability of our planet is the detrimental amount of plastic waste to which we subject the Earth.
This mainly comes from a common, everyday item: the plastic water container.
Plastic water bottles are everywhere; they are easily accessible and typically at a reasonable price. They are seen as safe, easy, convenient, and helpful. However, they are absolutely detrimental to the environment.
We scarcely go a day without seeing a plastic water bottle or two strewn across an area. We can even see evidence of this in Millburn — our local parks are no strangers to stray bottles and bags. The excessive use of plastic water bottles in our community is a major issue for many reasons: not only do they contain chemicals that easily contaminate the environment is not disposed properly, but they also could even be harmful to our well-being.
Plastic water bottles are made with PETs, or polyethylene, and they oftentimes leak harmful chemicals called phthalates. Phthalates are associated with various harmful effects such as an increase in fat and insulin resistance, along with damaging affects to the human reproductive system. These chemicals have even been shown to drastically increase the growth of certain cancer cells. Additionally, the reuse of water bottles increases the leaking of polyethylene into the water that is being consumed by a user through the stressed cracks in the bottle. Our group wanted to explain this information to others in order to convince people to lower the amount of bottles they use. We wanted to encourage people that the safest, healthiest, and best way to keep oneself and the environment well is to simply not use (or reuse) plastic water bottles at all, but rather switch to using stainless steel or reusable, washable alternatives.
Our group issued a public-school wide survey. Every student in our school would take a survey that asked questions about their knowledge of the harmful effects of reusing water bottles, and the even more detrimental effects of disposing them improperly.
The survey also asked about how many water bottles the subject uses in a given week. Most importantly, we gauged how willing people were to switch to stainless steel bottles by asking them specifically how willing they were to switching based on the evidence that water bottles have a negative impact on the environment and one’s health. We also asked about motivation for using water bottles in the first place to understand the roots of the issue.
We discovered many people in Millburn are unaware of the harmful health effects of plastic bottles. Once presented with this information, the vast majority of students said they would switch to stainless steel bottles instead.
Switching to a stainless steel bottle is not only a good choice for the environment, it is also a good choice for your health. Whatever your motivation for switching — stainless steel is prettier, more convenient, more environmentally friendly, healthier, more accessible — just know that you are doing a favor to yourself, and for the community.