Aquaman actor Jason Momoa recently shaved some of his famously long hair to draw attention to his calls for people to stop using “single-use” plastic — especially bottled water.
It doesn’t take much to see through this baseless environmental ploy. First, Mr. Momoa revealed a few days after the stunt that he actually needed to cut his hair for an upcoming film shoot. The haircut was for a high-dollar project for Apple; not the planet. Second, Mr. Momoa started a water can company. It all smells more like a cash grab for his $50-per-case water can business than a sincere mission.
If you’re worried about pollution, the Momoa position is underwater. Aluminum cans are worse than plastic bottles for the planet. While both can be recycled, the production of aluminum has a higher carbon footprint than plastic.
On his packaging and website, Mr. Momoa suggests that plastic recycling doesn’t work. Or it’s somehow an illegitimate way of managing plastic bottles. And while some plastics—such as polystyrene foam—are difficult to recycle, PET plastic, which is the type used in water or soda bottles, is simple to recycle and accepted in curbside recycling programs throughout the country.
On environmental impact, various studies from Europe to America show PET plastic is better than aluminum cans by almost every metric. And plastic bottles aren’t “single-use” unless you elect to ignore that they are recycled into everything from carpet fibers to new bottles. Plastic bottles are just like cans. Both can be recycled and neither one is “single-use.”
As for emissions, the most recent assessment of life cycle comparisons researched by McKinsey and Company finds plastic bottle production requires half as much carbon dioxide emissions as the production of aluminum cans. In fact, emissions were lower for 13 of 14 plastic items the researchers reviewed. The Danish Environmental Agency conducted a similar test. They reported that aluminum can production was responsible for twice the emissions of plastic bottle production.
Reporters from Reuters found an even larger difference. According to its analysis, aluminum production results in nearly four times as much carbon dioxide as plastic.
Those emissions are compounded by the fact that Mr. Momoa ships his aluminum bottles across the country using Amazon. The case I ordered had two labels. One shows a shipment from California to Mr. Momoa’s distribution center in North Carolina. Then another label to its final destination in Virginia. The Amazon box even included a sticker warning delivery workers that the package is heavy. That’s a lot of fuel to move Mr. Momoa’s pricey water. And the aluminum cans were packaged with plastic wrap.
Producing aluminum is also a dirty and destructive process. Bauxite ore is found in open-face strip mines. As workers dig for the ore, they kick up thick red dust that leaves nearby communities covered in filth. The toxic dust kills vegetation, devastating nearby farms. The dust also harms those who are left to breathe it. According to a report from Human Rights Watch, bauxite mines have been tied to serious cancers and Alzheimer’s Disease.
But wait. Aquaman claims Americans need to buy his overpriced water can to prevent ocean pollution. But that claim, too, won’t hold water.
Almost all of the plastic in the ocean comes from underdeveloped countries. The United States is responsible for less than one percent of all mismanaged ocean trash. Just 10 rivers in Africa and Asia are responsible for feeding 93% of the trash in the ocean, according to a report from Scientific American. And National Geographic reports most of that floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is discarded fishing nets.
Cutting your hair in public is a cheap trick to attract attention. Conversely, hidden agendas and bad science just don’t cut it.
• Richard Berman is president of Berman and Co. in Washington.