MHS's Water Bottle Problem - And What is Being Done to Solve It

By Jahan Von Trapp, Aodhan Davidson, Harry Wang, Ethan Rubin, David Ackerson, & Jerry Zheng

Nowadays, plastic water bottles are being found everywhere in the MHS school building. The main reason for that situation is that it is very convenient for a student to buy a water bottle and carry it around throughout the day. According to Betty, who runs the cafeteria, an average of 100 plastic bottles are sold each day. However while they are convenient to use and carry around, they are producing trash that pollutes our environment. The bottles we use at MHS are made of mostly low cost plastic but take years to break down.  As fragments of these bottles mix with the local ecosystem, they pollute nearby waterways, or contaminate our soil. Furthermore, the production process of plastic bottles requires a large amount of nonrenewable energy.  In 2007, The total energy required to produce 33 billion liters of water was equal to about 32-54 million barrels of oil. To use so much energy on making plastic water bottles and then waste almost all of it by not recycling them is awful for the environment. What we need to do is find a cost effective, and environmentally sound alternative to plastic bottles. And we here at MHS think we’ve found one.

Having the school board fund the lunch program enough so that plastic water bottles no longer have to be sold has many benefits; there will be fewer water bottles wasted, and the lunch program won’t lose any money. Without external funds, the lunch program would lose a lot of money if the sale of plastic water bottles was banned. Around 35-40 cents is made per bottle sale, and approximately 100 plastic water bottles are sold each day. If the school board compensates for the difference, then the lunch program won’t lose any money, and there will be no reason not to ban these bottles. Secondly, these bottles cause a huge amount of waste. A waste audit done by MHS students shows that nearly 1,500 plastic water bottles are put in the trash each year, and therefore contribute to landfills where they take around 450 years to break down. The waste audit also showed that in 83 pounds of trash, only 40 pounds is actually trash. That’s less than half, which is unacceptable. All in all, removing these water bottles from our school would have many benefits, and if the lunch program is funded, there would be few costs.

Another solution to this problem would be to add metal bottles to the cafeteria. Students would buy these bottles, and use them throughout the year. The biggest cost with this idea is the cost of the bottles, since if they were bought in bulk, it would cost $600 for only 80 bottles. This is a lot of money, and it’s unlikely that people would spend the required $10 on a water bottle if they already have one. If they did buy one then there's no guarantee they’ll bring them everyday. Another big cost that comes along with this idea is that making stainless steel water bottles is extremely resource-intensive, relying on open pit nickel mining and toxic iron smelting. This is not only dangerous to the workers, but to the environment as well.  In conclusion, the costs of buying reusable metal water bottles are that they might never be bought in the first place, and that they could be dangerous during the production phase.

The benefits of creating a Solon water bottle are that it would completely eliminate many recycling problems that we as a school are experiencing, as well as saving both the sellers, and the student who buys it, money. If a student were to buy a 10 dollar water bottle at the beginning of the year, it would save them a huge amount of money long-term. If that student bought one water bottle even every other day, that would equate to about 64 dollars spent on water bottles per school year.  With these reusable bottles costing 10 to 12 dollars, they would most likely be cheaper than what students would buy normally. Most water bottles on the market range from 15-17 dollars, like the popular brand Klean Kanteen.  If students bought the metal water bottles we sell, then the amount of plastic water bottles that end up in the trash would greatly diminish.  While it may not seem like much, anything we can do to help our school decrease the amount of bottles in landfills will help the planet and environment greatly. Please purchase a reusable metal water bottle when they come out next year, and stop throwing plastic bottles in the trash.