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Exploring “Trapped Water”: Beyond the Bottle

Highlights from the accompanying article.

💧💧💧 Water, a life-sustaining element, faces challenges beyond scarcity. I’m talking about trapped water in non-biodegradable containers. I was recently made aware of this so I decided to do some more research because I wanted to bring the same awareness to you.

This article delves into the environmental impact of water confined in various containers and explores the repercussions and sustainable solutions to address this often-overlooked issue.

What is Trapper Water?

I use the term “trapped water” to refer to water contained within a sealed or closed environment, such as a bottle where it can not escape until the container breaks down. 

However, If these containers are not disposed of or recycled correctly and find their way into the environment, they might deteriorate over time due to weathering, physical stress, or other factors. This breakdown could eventually release any contained or “trapped” liquids, such as water, into the surrounding environment. Although this release wouldn’t happen immediately, possibly not for hundreds of years, or in large quantities, it could occur gradually as the materials break down.

It’s crucial to emphasize that the term “trapped water” can be understood differently depending on the situation. When talking about sealed containers, the water won’t naturally seep out. Suppose you consider the broader issues of waste management and environmental impact. In that case, the concern arises from the potential breakdown of containers, leading to the release of trapped contents and contributing to various types of plastic pollution and ecological damage but would lead to the release of “trapped” water.

Did you know that typically, it takes about 450 years for a plastic water bottle to break down? But, in some cases, it can even take up to 1,000 years. How fast plastic decomposes depends on the kind of plastic and the environment it’s in. Regular plastic bottles are usually made from Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) it’s a material that is lightweight, but it doesn’t break down easily. The chemicals in PET are also tough for bacteria to consume.

Unveiling the Consequences of Trapped Water

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Water, in its natural state, is in perpetual motion, cycling through various stages. The detailed graphic above explains how this cycle, in all of its many sources works together. When water becomes ensnared within sealed containers, it disrupts this natural cycle, resulting in several unseen issues:

  1. Finite Nature of Water:Water, a finite resource, continually participates in the Earth’s water cycle. Trapped water, especially in non-biodegradable containers like plastic bottles, removes this vital resource from natural circulation, contributing to the global challenge of water scarcity.
  2. 549be57a44d79a606a3a1705cbf9c04fa5b3dc572b62b344a8fa0cff2134f9ec.jpgImpact on the Water Cycle:Whether in expired containers or improperly disposed of non-biodegradable bottles, trapped water interrupts the water cycle by withholding a significant volume from natural processes.     dd0d8082c6a42290f324d04f1e6999fb0b24c4b5e3d06a11734fc90105a52444.jpg

Section 2: The Impact of Trapped Water in Numbers

In the United States alone, an astonishing 22 million gallons of water are trapped in non-biodegradable containers annually. This lost water, disconnected from the Earth’s water cycle, highlights the urgency of addressing this issue.

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Now, let’s explore the potential global impact by using this statistic as a reference:

What is the estimated Global Trapped Water?

Suppose the United States, with its population and consumption patterns, traps 22 million gallons of water in non-biodegradable containers each year. What might be the estimated global volume of trapped water annually? Well, let’s figure it out.

  1. Determine the Ratio:We’ll need to calculate the percentage of the world’s population compared to the United States population. For example, If the world’s population is approximately 7.9 billion and the U.S. population is around 331 million, the ratio is approximately 22.3:1.
  2. Apply the Ratio to Trapped Water:Now let’s multiply the U.S. trapped water statistic by the established ratio to estimate the global trapped water. So, 22 million gallons * 22.3 ≈ 490.6 million gallons.

This simplified example suggests that on a global scale, approximately 490.6 million gallons of water could be trapped in non-biodegradable containers annually. While this is a rough estimate and actual figures may vary due to consumption patterns and waste management practices, it underscores the potential magnitude of the issue over time.

Keep in mind that 490.6 million gallons of water is equal to approximately 1.2 Lake Tahoe’s worth of water, this is the second deepest lake in the United States at around 1,695 feet.

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Understanding the global implications emphasizes the urgency of addressing the problem of trapped water in non-biodegradable containers on a broader scale. This example is a thought-provoking illustration of the issue’s scope and encourages us to consider the collective responsibility in finding sustainable solutions.

Trapped Water in Non-Biodegradable Containers

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The problem extends beyond traditional water bottles. Non-biodegradable containers, including those for juices, sauces, and even expired products, can trap water after use or if discarded improperly.

Addressing the Issue – Solutions and Remedies

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It is crucial to explore solutions that mitigate the environmental impact of trapped water, promoting responsible consumption and sustainable disposal:

  1. Promoting Responsible Packaging: Encouraging the use of sustainable, biodegradable packaging materials that facilitate the easy extraction of trapped water is pivotal in addressing the issue. Companies like Boxed Water have taken an eco-friendly approach towards creating more sustainable and bio-degradable disposable drinking containers. On their website, they say “Our paper-based cartons are 92% renewable and way less destructive to our planet than single-use plastic bottles and aluminum cans.” 7948423b79da70af5dee1029aee6b0ed4cab5a03f17fbecc4e446e44fd07b63a.jpg
  2. Educating Consumers: Consumer awareness I think plays a crucial role in addressing the issue. Retailers of bottled water and non-biodegradable product packaging such as Walmart, and countless others need to implement educational campaigns that can inform individuals about the consequences of trapped water, expiration dates, and the environmental footprint of different packaging materials more boldly.
  3. Innovations in Packaging Design:Encouraging innovation in packaging design such as the idea of reimagining the cap and the material it is made with can lead to solutions that allow for the easy release of any future trapped water and enhance the recyclability of materials.

Toward a Sustainable Future

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The issue of trapped water in non-biodegradable containers is an often overlooked environmental challenge. By understanding the consequences and implementing sustainable solutions like Boxed Water, we can contribute to a more environmentally friendly future. 

A Little Perspective

Now, let’s put this into perspective by comparing the estimated global loss due to trapped water to the vastness of say, the polar ice caps:

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Comparing Global Trapped Water to the Polar Ice Caps:

  1. The volume of Global Trapped Water (490.6 million gallons annually):While 490.6 million gallons is a substantial amount of water and we already know that it is roughly equal to 1.2 Lake Tahoe’s worth of water, it is relatively minuscule compared to the total volume of water on Earth. For context, the total volume of water in the world’s oceans is estimated to be around 1.332 billion cubic kilometers, an immense quantity.
  2. Volume of Polar Ice Caps:The polar ice caps, covering Antarctica and the Arctic, contain the majority of the Earth’s fresh water. The Antarctic Ice Sheet alone has an estimated volume of about 26.5 million cubic kilometers. The Arctic ice cap is smaller but still significant in terms of freshwater storage.d88bfe2ceb8864867bf6ade6ac1b5c6f1aeeb11ad35bd1e833fd744154f03bd9.png
  3. Impact on Global Water Balance:While the estimated volume of trapped water in non-biodegradable containers is a concern from a resource management and environmental standpoint, it is crucial to recognize that the polar ice caps play a vital role in the Earth’s water balance. They act as significant reservoirs that contribute to sea levels, regulate global climate patterns, and provide a crucial source of freshwater.
  4. Call for Sustainable Practices:The comparison emphasizes the importance of local and global efforts to manage water resources responsibly. While the volume of trapped water in containers is a notable issue, it is dwarfed by the grand scale of Earth’s natural water systems. However, every drop counts, and addressing the issue collectively contributes to a more sustainable future.

While the estimated global volume of trapped water may seem significant to us on a human scale, it pales in comparison to the monumental water reserves held in the polar ice caps. This comparison underscores the necessity of responsible water management practices globally and encourages a holistic approach to safeguarding Earth’s precious water resources. As collective individuals, we’re capable of conquering huge tasks.

So, think about this. How long would it take for the volume of trapped water in non-biodegradable containers to equal the vast water reserves in the polar ice caps? Let’s take a look but we’ll have to make a few assumptions and simplifications:

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  1. Assumptions:Let’s assume that the current annual rate of trapped water remains constant. For simplicity, we’ll use the estimated global volume of trapped water annually (490.6 million gallons) and compare it to the total volume of the Antarctic Ice Sheet (26.5 million cubic kilometers) as it is the larger of the two polar ice caps.
  2. Conversion:Ok now let’s convert the volumes to a consistent unit for comparison and we’ll convert the global trapped water to cubic kilometers for consistency.

Calculations:

  • Annual volume of trapped water: 490.6 million gallons
  • Conversion factor: 1 gallon ≈ 3.78541e-9 cubic kilometers490.6 million gallons×3.78541e−9 km3/gallon≈0.001855 km3/year
  • Total volume of Antarctic Ice Sheet: 26.5 million cubic kilometers

Now, we can estimate the number of years it would take for the volume of trapped water to equal the volume of the Antarctic Ice Sheet:

Number of years = Total volume of Antarctic Ice Sheet Annual volume of trapped water.

Number of years=26,500,000 km 30.001855 km3/year≈14.3 billion years

Fun Fact: 26.5 million cubic kilometers is equal to roughly 111 quintillion cups which would stretch about 18,000 miles, assuming that each liter corresponds to a cube with sides of 10 centimeters.

Keep in mind that this is a highly simplified calculation, assuming constant rates and not accounting for potential changes in consumption patterns, technological advancements, or other factors. The result, 14.3 billion years, is an illustrative figure highlighting the vast difference in scale between the annual volume of trapped water and the total volume of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. It emphasizes the monumental nature of polar ice cap water reserves and the comparatively smaller impact of trapped water in non-biodegradable containers.

However, The vast difference in scale between the annual volume of trapped water in non-biodegradable containers and the water reserves in the polar ice caps does not necessarily mitigate the importance of trapped water awareness. While the comparison illustrates the enormity of natural water systems, it doesn’t diminish the significance of addressing local issues related to water waste and resource management.

Here’s why trapped water awareness remains important:

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  1. Local Impact: Trapped water in non-biodegradable containers directly affects local ecosystems, waste management, and water resources. It contributes to pollution, can impact soil quality, and affects the efficiency of waste disposal systems.
  2. Resource Management: Even though the volume of trapped water is relatively small compared to global water reserves, it represents a tangible loss of a valuable resource. Responsible consumption and disposal practices are essential for sustainable resource management.
  3. Educational Value: Awareness campaigns like this article about trapped water serve as educational tools. They highlight the broader issues of plastic pollution, single-use items, and the importance of sustainable practices. These campaigns can inspire individuals to make more environmentally conscious choices in their daily lives. The more we talk about these issues the more awareness we will build.
  4. Cumulative Impact: While the volume of trapped water on an individual level may seem small, the cumulative impact from millions of individuals can become significant. When multiplied across communities and nations, collective actions can contribute to positive environmental changes.
  5. Global Water Crisis: Even though the comparison was made to illustrate scale, it’s crucial to recognize that water scarcity is a pressing global issue. Every drop of water is valuable, and wasting it contributes to the challenges of water scarcity, especially in regions already facing water stress.
  6. Behavioral Change: Trapped water awareness can lead to behavioral changes in consumption and disposal habits. Encouraging responsible behavior at the individual and community levels can contribute to a broader shift toward sustainability.

While the scale comparison emphasizes the monumental nature of natural water systems, it doesn’t diminish the importance of addressing local issues and promoting responsible water management. Trapped water awareness reminds us that every action counts in building a more sustainable and responsible relationship with our precious water resources.

What can be done? Putting a stop to trapped water.

I believe many simple solutions exist that if implemented, would put a stop to trapped water and free up hundreds of millions of gallons of water and put it back into our ecosystem. 

  1. Biodegradable Materials:Explore biodegradable materials such as polylactic acid (PLA), which is derived from renewable resources like cornstarch. These materials break down more efficiently in natural environments compared to traditional plastics.
  2. Water-Soluble Caps:PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol): Use PVA, a water-soluble polymer. Caps made from PVA dissolve in water over time, ensuring that any trapped water is released as the cap degrades. Using a simple film on the underside of the cap would protect it from the product yet allow the outside of the cap to be exposed to the environment allowing it to degrade quickly when exposed.
  3. Natural Fiber Composites:
    • Hybrid Materials: Combine traditional plastics with natural fibers like hemp or flax. This hybrid approach enhances biodegradability while maintaining some structural integrity, ensuring the cap performs its function during the product’s lifecycle.
  4. Enzyme Integration:
    • Biocatalysts: Embed enzymes within the cap’s material to catalyze the degradation process. Enzymes can accelerate the breakdown of the cap when exposed to environmental conditions, facilitating the release of trapped water.

By incorporating these and probably other strategies into the design and production of bottle caps, it’s possible to create a more environmentally friendly and sustainable solution, allowing for the eventual release of trapped water while minimizing the environmental impact of the packaging.

What can I do?

As an individual, there are several actions you can take to minimize the likelihood of trapping water in containers and contribute to a more sustainable use of resources.

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Here are some practical steps:

  1. Opt for Reusable Containers:Choose reusable water bottles and containers whenever possible. This not only reduces the generation of single-use plastic waste but also minimizes the risk of trapping water in disposable items.
  2. Take off the Cap:A simple solution, that starts and ends with you, is to remove the cap. By removing the cap before you discard the item in the trash or recycling bin, you interrupt the very process of trapping water in non-biodegradable containers. Also, ensure any expired products have the lids removed and aren’t just tossed in the trash.
  3. Support Biodegradable Products:Opt for products with biodegradable packaging, including bottle caps. These materials are designed to break down more efficiently in the environment, reducing the long-term impact of trapped water.
  4. Educate Yourself and Others:Stay informed about the materials used in packaging, especially bottle caps. Understanding the environmental impact of different materials empowers you to make more sustainable choices. Share the knowledge you’ve learned in this article with friends and family to collectively reduce trapped water.
  5. Participate in Recycling Programs:Engage in local recycling programs and ensure that you follow guidelines for proper sorting and disposal. Recycling is an essential step in preventing materials from ending up in landfills, where they may contribute to trapped water.
  6. Avoid Single-Use Plastics:Minimize the use of single-use plastic items, such as disposable water bottles and plastic packaging. Opt for alternatives like reusable stainless steel containers, which are often more durable and unlikely to trap water.
  7. Choose Water-Soluble Packaging:When available, consider products with water-soluble packaging, especially if the items have a short shelf life. Water-soluble materials break down more easily, releasing any trapped water and minimizing environmental impact.
  8. Dispose Responsibly:Use designated recycling bins and follow local waste disposal guidelines. Be aware of the recycling symbols on products to understand their recyclability, and dispose of items responsibly to reduce the chances of trapped water in landfills.
  9. Stay Informed About Innovations:Keep abreast of innovations in sustainable packaging. As technologies evolve, new materials and designs may offer solutions to minimize the environmental impact of packaging, including the issue of trapped water.

By adopting these practices, as individuals we can play a vital role in preventing the trapping of water in containers and contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious lifestyle. Every small action adds up to make a positive impact on the health of our planet.

Help Bring Awareness To Trapped Water and Share This Article!

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– Justin V.

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