Featuring Guest Blogger: Talia Schmitt
This week, The Green Scene welcomes its first guest blogger; Talia Schmitt.
Talia is a Fairfax County High School Graduate and one of two recent recipients of American Disposal Service’s first Environmental Stewardship Scholarship.
She plans to pursue her interest in environmental leadership and education through her upcoming gap year which includes exploring environmental injustices.
During her recent trip to France, Talia conducted extensive research on European recycling practices and has been good enough to share some of her findings with American.
Plastic Water Bottles
Plastic, convenient, and refreshing. Guessed it? The Plastic Water Bottle.
For a culture so aware of the serious environmental threats we face, it is interesting to see how many plastic water bottles the French use. For instance, we were at the IEA (International Energy Agency) discussing environmental sustainability, and what are we offered? Plastic bottles.
Even worse, 15 out of the 16 people drank them. Yes, that one person was me. So what is it- there is clean tap water in the bathroom to fill up reusable bottles? Well, let’s start from the beginning.
Believe it or not, the water bottle industry started in France with the company Perrier in the 1970s. It was for the elite. With the “most natural” of all waters, why would it not be (disclosure: in reality 40% of bottled water is really filtered tap water)? It was brought to America from there where it simply became the convenient norm. Did you know that Americans use enough water bottles to circle around the earth 250 times in just one year! Crazy, anyway, back to France.
It has become such a standard, that no one thinks otherwise. While many Parisians will pass a plastic bag tax in a second, they will not think twice about gulping down a plastic water bottle, and then throwing it in the trash. Trash not recycling.
“While many Parisians will pass a plastic bag tax in a second, they will not think twice about gulping down a plastic water bottle, and then throwing it in the trash. Trash not recycling.”.
Granted there are some recycling bins, but for all the bottled drinks that Parisians use, you would think there would be more. I have been playing a little game to see how long it takes me to find a recycling bin after a nice Orangina.
So far my average time is twenty minutes. Twenty minutes- while looking. Remember that convenience is the number one key to recycling, so if there are no recycling cans in sight, most people will not hold on to a bottle 20 minutes, never the less, 1 minute before they toss it. That being said, some of the French bottled water companies do something very interesting…
According to a lead environmental researcher, they pay the plastic bottle tax. This is basically a few cents in advance per bottle that later goes to fund the recycling pick up. This has been encouraged and tried in a few parts of the States (6 states have adopted this method of funding for bottled water).
The company is able to put the label “100% recyclable” (NOTE: Recyclable, not recycled material!), to show their generosity. Unfortunately, in the US many of the bottled water industries such as Pepsi and Nestle have too much power for this ever to happen.
Either way, the French are ahead on their way of funding the bottles, but as for the use of them- that is another story. Like I said before, it is just engrained in the culture. And once something is engrained in a culture, especially the Parisian culture, it is hard to change.