Students should prevent plastic waste by using reusable water bottles

Students should prevent plastic waste by using reusable water bottles

Ariella Frommer, Staff Writer

Eliminating plastic water bottles in the cafeteria is essential to make the school more eco-friendly.

Prior to eliminating plastic bottles,  the cafeteria produced an immense amount of plastic waste. If every person who eats in the cafeteria took one plastic water bottle every day, the school would waste over 1,400 plastic water bottles every day and 250,000 plastic water bottles (or 6,000 pounds of plastic) per year. Our planet is already overrun by plastic. Why shouldn’t school take action when there is a clear, easy solution?

I have heard a lot of students say that plastic water bottles are not harmful if they recycle them. This statement could not be further from the truth. Not everyone at the school throws their plastic water bottles in the recycling bin because it is less convenient to find recycling bins. When you throw a plastic bottle into the recycling, you probably assume that it will get recycled. Wrong. According to Smithsonian Magazine, out of the 40 million tons of plastic waste generated by the U.S. in 2021, only five to six percent, or two million tons, was recycled; about 85 percent went to landfills and 10 percent was burned. 

Moreover, plastic can only be recycled so many times. Because the heating process shortens polymer chains, it degrades the plastic quality. PET plastic, used for water bottles, can only be recycled two to three times before its quality becomes too poor to reuse. Even if you thought that you did not add to the billions of tons of plastic waste by recycling your water bottle, you most likely were. 

In place of the plastic Aquafina water bottles, the cafeteria now offers paper cups next to the water coolers. While paper is also a single-use material, paper is the easiest material to recycle, according to GreenMatters. Around 68 percent of recycled paper and cardboard is repurposed — an astonishing number compared to the five-percent plastic recycling rate. So, if you forget to bring a reusable water bottle to school, paper cups are a far more sustainable option than plastic water bottles.

A common complaint is that students forget their reusable water bottle and are thirsty throughout the day. To this, I don’t know what to say except just don’t forget. The fact that some students want plastic water bottles back because they forget their reusable ones shows just how much privilege they have. Bringing a reusable water bottle to school is not that hard — we all have one laying around our house — and we can make an effort to bring it with our notebooks and folders when we pack our backpacks the night before school. I have no doubt that within a couple of weeks, most students will get used to this change and carry a reusable water bottle around school.

The last complaint that I hear is that students are forced to drink unhealthier options, namely Snapple,, because they want to carry around a beverage with them for hydration. Again, everyone should bring a reusable water bottle to school. There are plenty of water fountains to keep our bottles filled and keep us hydrated. 

The school has tried to eliminate plastic water bottles in the past by switching to aluminum. I thought we were finally moving forward in their sustainable practices during the canned-water era, but many students, including myself, complained about the water’s horrible metallic taste and the school reinstated plastic. There is no sustainable bottled alternative to plastic that the student body can get on board with — removing them altogether was the only option.

While removing the water bottles was an excellent first step, there is more to be done. I urge FLIK and the school to eliminate all single-use plastic in our cafeteria.