Category Archive: Myths

Myth: All Fossil Fuels Are Equally Bad for the Environment

The foundational element of life is carbon. Burning any fossil fuel will result in the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which scientists believe is the main driver of climate change. But not all fossil fuels are equally harmful to the environment.  For example, if the same amount of energy is created by coal and natural gas, the coal will emit nearly double the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In fact, the broad transition away from coal to natural gas in the United States is one of the main reasons the U.S. led the world in carbon emissions...

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Myth: Biofilm Only Grows in Old Pipes

Biofilm is a plaque-like sludge that can grow in damp environments. Biofilm is especially concerning for public health experts because it can grow inside tap water pipelines if they are not properly maintained. The pathogen-filled sludge is often credited for causing water-borne illness outbreaks, including E. coli infections. Biofilm growth is common in old household pipes, but that is not the only location where it can grow. Biofilm can also grow on containers that are not properly washed including in reusable water bottles and straws.  This post is part of a weekly series on environmental myths. You can find more myths here....

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Myth: Water Bottles Are Littered More Than Aluminum Cans 

Some cities in the United States have gone as far as banning plastic water bottles to prevent them from ending up littered, but research shows that plastic water bottles are not the most littered items. According to a litter analysis done by Keep America Beautiful, aluminum beverage containers were littered nearly five times more often than plastic water bottles. Alcohol cans were the most common among the aluminum litter.  Aluminum cans can take up to 500 years to decompose. Aluminum, like PET plastic, is recyclable when it ends up in the proper bin. This post is part of a weekly series on...

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Myth: Cartons Can Be Recycled Everywhere

Recycling cartons is tedious and costly, which is why roughly 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in an area where cartons cannot be recycled. Cartons are difficult to recycle because they are made of layers of paper, plastic, and aluminum. The plastic or aluminum lining is needed to keep liquids from seeping through the paper. Even when cartons are recycled, they are typically shredded into low-value products like insulation rather than a new carton.  Even in areas where cartons can be recycled, it may not be worth the effort. A study from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency found that it...

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Myth: Pipelines Are Bad for the Environment

Environmentalists have led massive protests in opposition to pipeline development throughout the country, including the Dakota Access pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline. These protests have led to many misconceptions about pipelines themselves.  Pipelines are one actually of the safest ways to transport liquid in the United States. Pipelines are significantly less likely to spill than trucks or trains. One Canadian study found spills were 4.5 times more likely from rail transportation than pipelines. Most pipeline spills that happen in the U.S. occur at the processing site, not between locations along the pipeline. As long as oil and gas are needed...

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Myth: The US Has a Standard Operating Procedure for Notifying the Public About Tap Water Contamination Emergencies

The EPA requires that the public be notified when their water becomes unsafe, but there is no nationwide standard operating procedure for how those notifications are made. In fact, there is no standard operating procedure in most states. Some cities have less-than-formal methods, too.  When a water main breaks or E. coli is detected in the treatment facility, there are several different ways in which the public may be notified. Some cities have a phone or email system. Some go door-to-door to notify those affected. Others report it to news outlets or post on social media and hope the public sees...

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Myth: Boxed Water Is Best for the Environment

Water boxed in cartons is the latest environmentalist fad, but it might not even help the planet.  Cartons are incredibly difficult to recycle. To make a carton hold liquids, the paper must be lined with glued layers of plastic and aluminum. These layers are expensive to separate and most recycled cartons end up being “down-cycled” into insulation and scrap paper. In contrast, plastic water bottles can be recycled into new bottles, playground equipment, and more.  Many recycling programs don’t accept cartons. Nearly 40 percent of Americans live in an area where cartons cannot be recycled. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency found that...

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Myth: Wind Power Doesn’t Harm The Environment

Wind power, like solar, is often commended as a green alternative. While wind may be a carbon-neutral source of energy, that doesn’t mean it is harmless. The batteries needed to store the energy harvested by the turbines require rare earth minerals that are often harvested using toxic methods. Wind turbines are massive and take up space. One study revealed that a transition to wind power from fossil fuels would require 20 times more land that could, in turn, raise the average surface temperature by more than 0.24 degrees celsius.   Many wind farms have also contributed to deforestation on land and marine...

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Myth: Flint Is the Only U.S. City To Suffer a Tap Water Catastrophe

The toxic water in Flint, Michigan, might be the most well-known water catastrophe in the United States, but it is not the only one.  Newark, New Jersey, has been struggling through a lead contamination issue very similar to the one that took place in Flint. Many families in both cities still rely on bottled water because of the toxic pipelines.  While Flint and Newark are both catastrophes caused by lead pipes, that is not the only issue American towns are facing. Crumbling pipelines have also led to water pressure losses and contamination. The city of Jackson, Mississippi, went more than a month...

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Myth: Aluminum Cans Are Better for the Environment

Aluminum is quickly becoming a top trend in single-use packaging, but it isn’t any better for the environment than plastic. Aluminum can be recycled indefinitely, but the benefits stop there--assuming it is even recycled at all (cans are one of the most littered items in America, according to Keep America Beautiful). Aluminum production emits twice as much carbon dioxide as plastic production. The smelting process for aluminum also emits perfluorocarbon (PFC) emissions that have a global warming potential 9,200 times that of carbon dioxide. Harvesting bauxite, the ore used to make aluminum, is a very dirty process. Bauxite is pulled from open-face...

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