The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Water bottle ban beneficial?

At first, I thought of drinking bottled water as a healthier alternative to soft drinks or sugary juices. It wasn’t until I was reading news on, when I stumbled across an article about bans of bottled water by universities across the nation, that I started to question the benefits of plastic bottled water on a larger scale.

I didn’t know what to expect when I began to read the article. I thought it might be a bunch of hippies trying to make a point about the life of affluence. I liked my Fiji waters, and would buy them in bulk at the grocery store.

As I read an article by Ted Burnham that discussed universities across the nation opting to ban selling bottled waters on campus, I began to wonder if SMU would ever consider such a bold move?

Granted, selling plastic bottled water is probably contracted with beverage distribution companies, and there may be other reasons not to breach these contracts; however, could there be a way to continue to sell bottled soft drinks and at the same time ban bottled water in order to please all parties involved?

Simply put: Plastic bottles are a by-product of crude oil. The crude oil is refined into monomers, which are used to create plastic.

There are many types of plastic that can be made ranging from automotive parts to plastic bottles. Plastic is a strong material, and non-biodegradable, which means we cannot bury the plastic and wait a long period of time for it to decompose.

We address this problem with recycling plastics into new products.

There are three views on this topic to consider, which are an anthropocentric approach, a common-sense approach, and an obligatory reform approach.

The anthropocentric approach: If any ethical view should be considered, it should be from a human’s standpoint. After all, we are the only creatures on this planet who worry about pollution, morality, and the future. For humans, water is a benefit.

Also, capitalists benefit from distributing and selling plastic bottled waters. As Adam Smith claimed, the free-market should be ruled by the invisible hand. If customers demand a product, then the market should respond to meet such demands.

So, when did people start demanding bottled waters? Perhaps people only wanted bottled waters after the soft-drink industry decided to make it a desire. This raises an alarm because if this is not a true desire, then do we have a right to pursue it?

Turns out, if we are only interested in the welfare of humans, we should look at the pollution to see if that could potentially harm people. If it turns out consuming bottled water is harmful to humans, then this view would not justify its production or consumption. We would have to reform our behavior.

The common-sense view: Another view we could examine is the idea that bottled waters are not harmful to the environment as long as we try to recycle each bottle. All we have to do is melt down the original bottles, then reshape new ones, right? It seems pretty simple. However, to take this utilitarian stance implies that we must look at each step of the process to recycle plastic.

There are additional amounts of pollution resulting from recycling, which would not occur if we stopped drinking bottled waters. For example, some items cannot be recycled, but become de-cycled.

This means that plastic bottles are not recycled into a new plastic bottle, but sometimes plastic bottles are turned into plastic bottle caps, straws, and plastic tabs, which then all become trash.

Additionally, the transportation of plastic bottles from consumer, to recycling plant, to filling facility, to store and back to the consumer; which uses more fossil fuel to transport it at each step.

Granted, reusing materials is far less damaging to the environment than creating new materials, but all of those steps (which produce pollution) could be avoided if we stopped the “demand” for bottled water.

Just think about the amount of resources used for this process before the bottled water gets to the store where you purchase it the next time you are thirsty running errands.

Is it common sense to spend as much resources, and money, on this affluent option? Maybe we should all travel with a reusable bottle and find the nearest water fountain to not only reduce additional transportation steps, but also costs. Water fountains are free.

The obligatory reform view: The final view is the deontological approach, which implies we have a duty to preserve the earth for future generations, and our future selves. If reviewed, every step of the process of making plastic water bottles, to transporting products, and even recycling can be damaging to the environment.

Things that damage the environment eventually damage humans, which is wrong to do in any situation. Drinking out of plastic water bottles is not necessary, but a luxury.

It could damage our future selves and future generations due to the contributions to climate change from the CO2 emissions released during each step of bottle waters.

Due to these facts, we should ban plastic bottle waters because going without a luxury is better than depriving our future selves (and future generations) of the ability to be rational agents by limiting (and damaging) natural resources.

What if we stopped drinking plastic bottled waters? Would that really be hard to accomplish?

All the views point to: no. Come out and share your views on this topic: Thursday, 11:30 a.m. the Society for Ethical Evaluation and Debate will host two Flash Debates on the resolutions “Due to environmental concerns, Southern Methodist University ought to ban plastic bottled waters on campus?” in the Speakers’ Corner outside of Hughes-Trigg Student Center.

Rachel is a senior majoring in philosophy and psychology. 

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