Several Slippery Rock University organizations currently profit off of single-use plastic beverages available in the on-campus vending machines. In lieu of recent climactic revelations, the continued sale and profit off of these products should be considered unethical. While the global climate crisis and the plastic problem are not one in the same, they are interconnected. Although a less pressing matter, the plastic problem is still of significance and should not be overlooked, as its effects can contribute to environmental degradation. The production and improper disposal of plastic water bottles can result in both negative ecological and economic ramifications.
In its most fundamental form, plastic water bottles are bad for the environment because their production requires the use of oil. The petroleum industry possesses its own host of negative environmental impacts, including air pollution via the production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Another issue with plastic water bottles is that they are often not disposed of properly. Many companies that produce plastic water bottles market themselves as eco-friendly because their products can be recycled. However, a significant portion of plastic water bottles end up in landfills due to improper disposal, contributing to the increasing rate of pollution in marine ecosystems. After China issued a new set of restrictive rules for recycling imports in 2017, the United States has been unable to outsource.
The current recycling program infrastructure is outdated and cannot sustain the amount of trash produced by the country. Thus, the number of plastic water bottles ending up in oceans or landfills is increasing. Economically, plastic water bottles are also costly and unnecessary. Because plastic water bottles are sold by private companies, they are less strictly regulated than tap water and tend to be more expensive.
The water within water bottles is also comparable in quality to that of tap water. While many plastic water bottle companies advertise bottled water as a healthier alternative, bottled water actually undergoes less frequent and stringent quality testing than tap water. This is because tap water is regulated by the government, but since bottled water is sold by private companies, it does not have to adhere to the higher standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Furthermore, the commodification of water should be considered unethical, as it is a public resource essential for human life.
To combat the above issues, Slippery Rock University should remove single-use plastic water bottles from campus vending machines. Other colleges have already began limiting their plastic waste by banning or limiting the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. Some alternatives to plastic water bottles include the installment of hydration stations that dispense filtered water.
The University could also provide incoming freshmen with reusable water bottles to promote the reduction of plastic waste.
Lastly, if Slippery Rock University were to use alternatives to plastic water bottles such as water packaged in biodegradable cartons or aluminum cans, commissions could still be made off of items sold in vending machines without contributing to plastic waste.
As a student of this university, I encourage these organizations to renegotiate the terms of their contract with Pepsi to better act as an educated consumer. If Slippery Rock University were to adopt more sustainable methods it would reduce unnecessary plastic waste and make for a more environmentally conscious campus.