Sunday, June 5, 2011

Minnesota Bottle Bill

I was looking around online after my last post and found that a bottle bill (HF 1494) has been introduced in Minnesota House.  You can go to to learn more about the bill.  I think it would be a good thing for Minnesota to pass the bill because in other states that have passed similar bottle bills, recycling rates have sky-rocketed.

Currently Minnesota recycles about 35% of beverage containers, but the State has set a goal of 80% by 2012.  I don't think this will be done without the help of the Recycling Refund.  According to, The Minnesota Recycling Refund Act would not only increase recycling rates but would also raise money for State curbside programs, create jobs, and provide another way for schools and organizations to raise money.

I think it is our responsibility to take initiative and keep the Earth a pleasant place to live for future generations and a great way to do that is by conserving and keeping the world clean.  Bottle bills will help conserve resources and energy used to make beverage containers and will help put a stop to littering/pollution.  If you agree, go to and send your representative a message encouraging them to support this bill.

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."
~ Native American Proverb


I can think of a few ways everyone can help reduce the amount of plastic pollution and none of them will drastically change your life.  They include: recycling plastic containers, not using plastic bags at the grocery store, drinking tap water instead of bottled water, and urging state representatives to pass “Bottle Bills” in your home state.

In high school I recycled because we had recycling pick-up, but when I moved to Fargo for college I stopped because my apartment doesn’t have a recycling bin.  After watching the two documentaries mentioned in my earlier posts, I started recycling again.  I just throw all my recycling (plastic containers, food cans, aluminum cans, glass, etc.) into a separate garbage can and either bring it with to my parents house when I go home, or bring it to the city recycling bins at a local grocery store.  I was surprised by how much less I had to take out the garbage after I started recycling.  It seems like half of what I used to throw away is able to be recycled.  Recycling symbol taken from:

After the Red River level began to drop after the flood this spring I was driving by the river and there were plastic bags caught in tree branches that the river carried into them.  I don’t really like using plastic bags because they seem to accumulate in a closet and pretty soon there is a shelf full of them.  I usually don't take a bag when I go to the grocery store anymore; instead, I’ll leave my groceries in the cart and bring them to my car and put them in reusable bags that you can get at pretty much any grocery store.  Also, I work as a cashier at a local hardware store and I don’t give bags to people who only have a couple items unless they ask for one.  It might be poor customer service but lets get real; what is the point of putting one or two items that you can carry perfectly fine without a bag into a bag?  The picture below was taken from
Also, I have almost stopped drinking bottled water completely after watching the documentaries.  I have started using a refillable stainless steel water bottle to bring with to class or work.  If you are really convinced that bottled water is better for you than tap water, go out and buy a filter for your faucet or a pitcher with a filter in it because a lot of bottled water is just filtered tap water anyway according to “Tapped”.  The bottle on the right is sold by Riverkeeper, an organization that is working to protect the Hudson River in order to ensure safe drinking water for New York City's residents (

Another thing you can do to stop pollution caused by plastic is to urge your state representative to introduce a Bottle Bill in your home state.  According to “Tapped”, bottle bills are where consumers pay a small deposit for the bottle they are purchasing (included in the purchase) and the deposit is returned to them when they recycle the bottle.  In states where bottle bills are in effect, the money made from the bottle bills fund recycling programs so government funding isn’t needed and recycling rates are way higher than the national average.  11 states in our country have bottle bills and in the states that return 5 cents, the return rate is about 70%; when the return is 10 cents like in Michigan, the return rate is about 97%.  Below is a diagram of how the deposit/refund works in a bottle bill ( 

Monday, April 4, 2011

PepsiCo Develops World's First 100 Percent Plant-Based, Renewably Sourced PET Bottle

Here is a link to an article I found about a new bottle Pepsi is going to be testing, made from 100% plant based material.   Testing is scheduled to begin in 2012, and if it works out, it will be put into full use.

Also, here is a trailer for and a link to the documentary "Addicted to Plastic" in case anyone wants to watch it.

Here is a trailer for "Tapped" and if anyone is interested in watching it and has Netflix, it is available for Instant Play.  I couldn't find it online or at any libraries in the area.

Addicted to Plastic

The documentary "Addicted to Plastic" covered a lot of the same topics as "Tapped" as far as pollution and environmental research goes, but it also looked into how companies around the world are trying to reduce plastics waste that ends up in landfills. (Photo courtesy of /plastic.php.)

Captain Charles Moore (also in "Tapped") provided the same findings as in "Tapped" but also added more on the topic.  He said that only about ½ of all plastic floats, so the garbage they are finding on the surface of the Pacific Ocean is a very small portion of what is actually in the water.  Moore also said that although some waste in the ocean is generated by the fishing industry, about 80% of it originates on land.

I know the Pacific Ocean doesn’t seem to relate to us at all in Fargo, so I’ll try to put together a different scenario.  Say someone throws a bottle out of their car when they are driving along the Red River; that bottle might end up in the River, where it will start to float to Canada.  Canada really doesn’t like us sending pollution their way so I’m assuming they will be pretty ticked about that bottle floating into Lake Winnipeg.  Now, I did a little research on good old Wikipedia and it told me that water from Lake Winnipeg eventually ends up in the Hudson Bay (part of the Arctic Ocean) by way of the Nelson River.  So, if you are still reading this, the bottle that was thrown out in Fargo could end up in an Ocean after all, and it might break up into pieces and become fish food.

Back to the movie – "Addicted to Plastic" traveled all over the world finding people who were doing research on plastic pollution.  In Holland, Dr. Jan van Franeker is doing research on birds.  Most of his research consists of dissecting dead birds that are found on beaches.  Dr. Franeker has found that 90% of the birds he dissects have plastic in their digestive systems; the average amount is 0.6 grams with the largest amount being 20 grams.  So if 90% of the birds Dr. Franeker finds and dissects have plastic in them, it seems to me like plastic has a pretty harmful effect on wildlife if they eat it.  The picture above is an example of a seabird that has ingested plastic and died as a result (

From what I’ve been talking about so far it probably seems like this whole movie was about how bad people are for using plastic, but a lot of the movie actually looked at what some countries and companies are doing to reduce wastes.  Each of the following countries/companies were featured in the documentary.

Denmark has a plastic bottle recycling rate of about 90%; all recycled bottles are run through state operated recycling depots where they get sorted and returned to the manufacturer (ex. Coke, Pepsi) where the bottles can be disinfected and reused up to 20 times.  Only certain types of bottles can be reused though; all other plastic that is run through the depots can be ground up and turned into new plastic items.

Texas – TieTek -
TieTek is a company in Houston, TX that takes waste plastic from the city and melts it into railroad ties that are sold to railroad companies all over the world.  The ties last longer than wood, meet all required specifications for rail use, are resistant to insects, and can be reused over and over because if one breaks, it can be melted down and reformed.  According to the company owner Henry Sullivan, TieTek consumes hundreds of millions of plastic bottles and bags, and uses 750,000 tires to make the ties each year.

California – Patagonia -
Patagonia is a pretty popular company known for making jackets and other outerwear.  I had heard of Patagonia before I watched "Addicted to Plastic" but I didn’t know their jackets are made from recycled plastic.  According to Jen Rapp, the Patagonia representative featured in the movie, each jacket is made from about 2% plastic bottles and 98% random plastic.  Also, all of their old jackets can be recycled and turned into new jackets.

These are just a few examples of countries/companies that are trying to reduce the amount of plastics that gets thrown away.  There were many other examples in the movie like a very small company in Africa that make jewelry and other novelties out of rubber flip-flops to help clean up their beaches and make a living.  Other examples mainly consist of companies that collect plastics and other garbage to make new products out of them.  Some companies have even started “mining” landfills to make money.

Tennessee – WastAway -
WastAway is a company that takes all municipal waste, separates the metal and glass from the rest of the garbage, and grinds the rest up and pushes it into a high temperature steam system that renders it inert.  The final product is called “fluff”.  WastAway says that fluff is a good growing medium that can be bagged and sold to landscaping companies for profit.  Fluff can also be turned into more useful products like benches and decking boards.  Eventually, WastAway believes they will be able to mine landfills and turn the garbage into useful products.

I think it’s awesome that companies can take garbage and make useful products out of it.  I also think it is good that companies are trying to take initiative to make products out of recycled material.

"Addicted to Plastic" also showed a lot of companies that are taking steps to make plastic out of biodegradable material so it can be decomposed if it is thrown into the environment.  I will talk more about these companies in a later post about solutions to pollution problems.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


**NOTE** I am not against using plastic because if you look around I bet a lot of things you own are made from plastic...and I'm not about to give up my tv, phone, or other electronics.  On the other hand, I think more thought has to be put into how you get rid of plastic.  I also think it's crazy to buy bottled water when there are drinking fountains all over campus and in a lot of workplaces because the water you are buying is basically the same water that is coming out of the tap.**

Topics covered in "Tapped" included: how plastic bottles are made, recycling plastic bottles, pollution caused plastic, and solutions to pollution problems.  In this post I will try to stick to topics dealing with pollution caused by plastic bottles.  The information in this section of the blog is either what I have learned from watching Tapped or something I have known prior to watching it.  The "Tapped" logo was taken from

Plastic Bottles
The main ingredient in many plastic bottles we use today (PET and PETE) is called parazylene, which is obtained from refining crude oil.  According to Tapped, 714 million gallons of oil, or enough to fuel 100,000 cars, is used every year to manufacture plastic bottles.

More importantly, refineries that produce parazylene pollute the air, greatly affecting the health of people living around the refinery because the toxins can cause a wide range of diseases.  In Corpus Christi, TX, where a major refinery is located, birth defects are 84% higher than the state average, and the residents believe it is caused by the refinery’s pollution.

The problem that rises after a bottle has been produced and used is how it is thrown away.  I think it’s safe to say that everyone knows plastic bottles are recyclable, but how many people actually recycle all the time?  Nobody likes carrying extra stuff around with them until they find a place to recycle, so bottles usually end up in a garbage can.  Every day in America, 80 million bottles of water are consumed, but only about 30 million of those are recycled.  When compared to International Recycling Rates, America falls behind with a recycling rate of about 20% of all beverage containers, while the rest of the world is around 50% (Tapped). 

Most of the pollution research discussed in Tapped was done by Captain Charles Moore; founder the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.  Moore stated that a lot of bottles that end up in landfills wash into bodies of water (like the ocean), where they eventually end up washing up on shore.  Kamilo Beach, one of the southern most beaches in the U.S., has plastic material littered all over the sand, as well as broken down plastic mixed into the sand.  To the left is an actual picture of the plastic scattered on Kamilo Beach (

Moore has also done research in the planet’s oceans and has found huge areas (like the North Pacific Gyre) that accumulate enormous volumes of garbage due to the currents in the water.  Picture from:

Water samples taken from these areas show some places contain more plastic per weight than plankton.  In 1999, testing of their samples showed as much as 6 times the amount of plastic as plankton per weight and the same tests in 2008 showed 46 times more plastic than plankton (Tapped).   The plastic in these samples is mostly broken up into small enough pieces resembling fish eggs so small fish eat the plastic, which can eventually poison them.  To the left is an example of what Capt. Moore finds when he skims the water in the North Pacific Gyre (Picture from:

Watching this documentary made me realized that bottled water is a ripoff and I really don't like paying money for something that I can get free out of my tap or one of the many drinking fountains on campus.  I will talk about ways pollution can be reduced in a later blog post.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just an Update

I've been watching a couple of documentaries I think are pretty interesting that deal with the topic of using plastic.

The first documentary is called "Tapped" and it looks into the bottled water industry and how much money companies are making by selling bottled water (even though they say most of the bottled water is just filtered tap water).  It also talks about damage done to local water supplies where companies take water from as well as the pollution all of the plastic usage is causing in the Earth's oceans.

The second documentary is called "Addicted to Plastic" which mainly discusses pollution and environmental effects of using and producing plastic.  It also talks a great deal about ways companies all over the world are taking initiative to create plastics out of plant based material so it can biodegrade.  "Addicted to Plastic" also goes into detail about how some companies are trying to solve recycling problems and are trying to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.

I will go into further detail on what I've learned in these documentaries when I have a little more time (hopefully soon).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Purpose of this Blog

The purpose of this blog will be to look into the environmental impacts of  using plastic bottles and the pollution caused by not recycling them.  I will also look into alternatives to these plastic bottles so we can reduce the amount of waste going into our landfills.

This is my first blog so we will see how it goes.