Block the Bottles

There is a numbing ubiquity to plastic water bottles, despite their general pointlessness and woeful environmental impact. We were reminded of this by a photograph taken at a recent Springs School Board meeting, which showed one Nestlé Pure Life 16.9-ounce water bottle placed in front of each member’s seat. The Springs School Board is hardly the only group at which water in plastic is seen; plastic bottles were deployed at a League of Women Voters candidates’ debate, as they are at many public and private events.

Recycling plastics is known to be worthwhile, but the statistics are not encouraging. According to an academic study last year, nearly 80 percent of the plastics manufactured ends up in landfills or in the environment at large. Health studies have suggested that certain plastics can mimic estrogen as they degrade. Some leach compounds that have been linked to asthma, heart problems, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. Environmentalists also recommend the use of certified water filters to reduce the chance of exposure to water from the tap.

The Springs School, as with the League of Women Voters and other public and private entities, could help by setting an example of refusing to supply bottled water at their events. Another school, Montauk, has been a leader in this, with a successful fourth-grade effort to get businesses to give up serving drinks with plastic straws. East Hampton Town and Village have banned single-use plastic bags, and a new Suffolk law encourages grocery customers to supply their own bags or pay a 5-cent fee. 

The Springs School’s dozen or so water bottles might not seem worth worrying about, but they are part of what advocates say is a growing crisis. Already, a million plastic bottles change hands each minute around the world, and the shocking number is growing. According to The Guardian newspaper, enough plastic bottles are now sold in a year to reach halfway to the sun if stacked end to end. Some of the world’s discarded plastic ends up in the food chain. 

Schools, above all, should seek to set examples of good stewardship of the planet. Ending the practice of supplying wasteful plastic bottles at meetings is one way to help spread the message that even the smallest steps can make a difference.