Published: June 21, 2017

    Pelican Water Sustainability Scholarship 2nd Place Winner: Mariana Duenes

    Countless students submitted thoughtful and intricate submissions for our bi-annual College Scholarship Contest, but no entry captured our attention like Mariana Duenes’ incredibly creative entry. Told from the perspective of a discarded water bottle, Duenes critiques the plastic waste crisis by giving it life and urgency, illustrating in vivid detail the impact plastic water bottle waste has on the environment. The emotional appeal in Duenes’ essay is powerful and inspires the reader to take action. We are thrilled to officially select Mariana Duenes as the 2nd place winner in our bi-annual essay contest.

    Mariana Duenes excelled in academics throughout high school while balancing a demanding extracurricular cross country running schedule. Duenes has always been a proactive conservationist, becoming involved in organizations that help save the lives of animals and protect the environment. The second-place $1000 prize will go toward Duenes’ undergraduate education costs as she continues to develop her passions. Read her sustainability scholarship entry below.

    My name is Flasche. I am a plastic 16-ounce water bottle. I reside in the 2,200-acre Apex Regional Landfill in Las Vegas, Nevada. I find myself stuck in the claws of a midlife crisis. I’m currently 217 years old and although I’m pretty beat up and aged I still have plenty more decades of tedious existence on this planet. I don’t understand my purpose and my depression has become too severe to deal with anymore. I’ve seen and heard too many devastating stories from neighbouring water bottles that come from all over the world. I can’t take it anymore. Something needs to change and change fast.

    I share my story and the stories of my fellow friends in hopes of raising awareness of the epidemic caused by us the water bottles which affect humans, animals and the planet alike. I hope to one day see the day when all production of plastic bottles cease to exist. Some might call my dreams too drastic or unachievable but I believe with the right education and information more and more people will make the necessary changes to save the precious planet.

    My story begins at the oil refinery factory where oil and gas molecules are bonded together under high temperatures to make small plastic pellets. These pellets were then shipped into manufacturing plants otherwise known as, my birthplace. Here all the water bottles are shaped and molded including myself. I was clothed with a plastic label that featured a refreshing waterfall and a graceful sun. We’re all then filled with filtered water and shipped to stores to meet the half a billion per week human demand for water bottles. That’s enough water bottles to circle the globe more than 5 times! Eventually I was snatched off the shelf, half my content was drunk by a human and shortly after I was thrown into an overflowing trash can.

    My life was pretty happy until the moment I was discarded. Everyone around me in the factories and at the store was always so happy. Now I couldn’t find a smile anywhere I looked. We all knew the reality of the problem and how big a part we played in it. In this trash can I met my two best friends. Their names where Abfall and Mull. They were German. our friendship was short lived though since I was soon transported to a gigantic trash can; My current home in the landfill of Nevada. Here we can receive up to 15,000 tons of trash everyday! It is a horrendous and hopeless dumping ground for all kinds of trash. I’ve resided here for years and years and started to notice something peculiar when it rained. The whole landfill would cry out in despair when rain started to fall from the sky. We all knew the problems that we produced. As rain seeped through all the garbage it absorbed water soluble compounds which in some cases where highly toxic. Together this formed Leachate which can then move into groundwater beneath us or the soil and streams near us poisoning ecosystems and harming all types of wildlife.

    This tragedy went on for years and years. I was so fed up with it but felt completely useless. I mean what could I do, I’m just a water bottle in a landfill. The real power lies within the humans even if some of them don’t know it yet. My misery continued until one day I was reunited with my two friends. Both of them were dumped right next to me in the landfill. I was so excited to see them even though they didn’t share my excitement. I asked them to tell me their journey and how they ended up here in the landfill just like me after so many years.

    These are their stories. Mull had taken a new form, he was now a plastic spoon instead of a water bottle. I was very curious to find out what happened to him. Mull had the luck of being picked up by an environmentally conscious human being and was placed in a recycling bin that was later taken into a recycling plant. Here Mull recalls being crushed and melted and became

    pellets again. Then he went to another factory and that’s when he was shaped as a spoon. He felt rejuvenated and had a new purpose but that soon ended when he was thrown away after helping with just one meal.

    The journey of Abfall was much longer and terrifying. He was dragged by rainfall into a stream that lead him to a river. He eventually ended up in the vast ocean where he floated for an agonizing five years until he reached “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. I had never heard of such a thing but it sounded awful. Abfall described it as the grosses most depressing moment of his voyage. He became part of the giant greyish brown soup made up of endless trash covering the ocean. There’s five of these garbage gyres around the world that affect every major ocean. Animals would repeatedly get stuck in this massive cortex of plastic accumulation. Either mistaking the trash for food or simply drawn in by the curiosity of unknown objects. Animals often ate plastic and felt full and satisfied when in reality they were nutritionally starving themselves which eventually lead them to their death. The toxins in the plastic objects small animals ate traveled up the food chain and eventually affected humans who ate seafood. The garbage gyres don’t just affect the animals and humans it also eventually negatively impacts our delicate oceans and coral reefs communities. The oceans are extremely important for life on earth but they’re being destroyed because of the massive amounts of waste humans produce. Abfall was eventually picked up by some people on a boat who attempted to clean the oceans. That’s how he ended up here in the landfill.

    I sit here between hundreds of millions of tons of water bottles in landfills pondering the situation trying to come up with a solution. This is a massive problem. A vicious cycle that seems to have no end. It is driven by Human kind and can only be stopped with awaken consciousness and action from everyone. A very clear first step in my mind is getting rid of plastic bottles altogether. Humans have invented filters that basically finish cleaning tap water and make it perfectly safe to consume. The solution is simple and easy. The only thing that will be challenging is spreading the knowledge. There’s hope for the planet but it all starts with the individuals.