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Environmental Studies - Consumer Products - Research Paper Example

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Consumer Products Introduction The manufacture of consumer products contributes in a significant manner to the depletion of natural resources, since the production of consumer products depend to a very large extent on the bounty of nature like water, forestry, mining, and agricultural produce…
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Download file to see previous pages Since the industrial revolution in Europe, mass production came in to place to satiate the demand for consumer products, which was passed on to the European colonies, with particular emphasis on the United States of America. Greater economic strength has led to the developed world becoming the focus of increased consumerism (Stearns, 2006, p.40). This paper evaluates some consumer products in terms of their environmental footprint, to provide awareness on the impact of consumer products on the environment. Bottled Water Tap water fit for human consumption is quite freely available, yet there is increasing use of bottled water, due to the lack of faith in tap water (Gelt 1996, np). For the production of bottled water consumed worldwide more than 1.5 million ton of plastic is needed for the plastic bottles in which the water is bottled. This plastic comes from the non-renewable resources of oil and natural gas. The manufacturing processes involved in the production of the plastic can be polluting to the environment and cause risk to human health. There are several ways in which Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is the plastic resin used most commonly to produce plastic bottles can be recycled, to reduce environmental degradation (Chong & Kim, 2007, np). Yet, recycling of plastic is not often done, and so plastic bottles are disposed off, causing serious landfill issues. Plastics are chosen for several applications because of their stability to degradation. This in turn causes plastics to have a very slow rate of degradation, thus constituting a long duration waste problem (Harper, 2002, p.14). In addition to the pollution issues with bottled water, there is concern on depletion of the water resources at the production sites of bottled water. Large quantities of water are required at the bottled water production sites, which is drawn from ground water aquifers and local streams, raising concerns on the sustainability of the water resources in the face of this large scale depletion of water resources. In the USA protests against the depletion of water resources for the production bottled water have occurred, like at Nestle’s Perrier plant at Wisconsin, which led to its relocation to Michigan (Gleick, 2004, p.41). Dishwashing or Washing Machine Detergents In the production of dishwashing and washing machine detergents the factors that are important from an environmental perspective are the energy used in the impact of the raw material extraction, energy consumption, and release of waste products and effluent from manufacturing sites. Raw material extraction issues include the impact of mining for phosphates, silicates, and carbonates, used as builders in detergents, on the environment. Waste effluents from the production of detergents pertain to the ingredients in the detergents. There are more than 30 ingredients in modern detergent, with surfactants, builders, and solvents that can be toxic to the surrounding environment (Risk & Policy Analysts, 2006. p.i). However, it is the usage stage of dishwashing or washing machine detergents that is the most critical to environmental degradation. Life cycle assessments on detergents have shown that it is the usage stage that is responsible for approximately 95% of environmental degradation with detergents. This critical factor becomes even more significant, when the increasing number of different dishwashing and washing machine detergents entering the market and increasing consumption is taken ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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