Saturday, November 1, 2008

Items collected Saturday, November 1, 2008

  • 3 glass bottles (1 Everfresh orange juice, 1 Zonin Prosecco Spumante sparkling wine, 1 Svedka vodka)

  • 1 blue pen

The pen had been crushed at one end, but fortunately it wasn't the end used for writing. It's ugly, but the pen still works just fine.

The bottles I found today were all larger than average, and one is huge! The orange juice bottle holds 32 fluid ounces (946 mL), the wine bottle holds only 750 mL but is taller than the juice bottle, and the vodka bottle towers above both of them and holds a whopping 1.75 liters of 80 proof vodka. I'm once again amazed that anyone finds it convenient to drink from such a bottle on the street.

I was pretty sure the amount of vodka in a 1.75 liter bottle was many times the amount it would take to kill someone, and did some back-of-the-envelope calculations to see if this was correct. According to the Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies, a 200-pound man "would have to consume about 5-6 drinks per hour for 4 hours" to achieve a blood alcohol level at which 50% of people die. Wikipedia says that a standard drink contains 18 milliliters of alcohol, making 5-6 drinks equivalent to 90-108 mL of alcohol. Multiplying this by 4, for the 4 hours of drinking, gives 360-432 mL. The vodka is 40% alcohol by volume, so the bottle contained 700 mL of alcohol, twice the amount that would likely kill the hypothetical 200 pound man. This makes the bottle less lethal than I had expected, but still potentially lethal enough to kill 2 large men drinking slowly. It could kill even more drinkers if they weighed less, drank faster, or had certain medical conditions. For example, the Rutgers' page indicates that a 100-pound woman who drinks 9 standard drinks in an hour has roughly a 50% chance of dying, so if Wikipedia is correct about the size of a standard drink, the vodka bottle contained more than 4 times as much vodka as could kill the hypothetical woman.

I realize that the bottle may already have been close to empty before it was taken out last night, and that it may have been shared by a large group of people. Still, I remain baffled by the number of very large bottles I find on the street. I think of litterbugs as lazy people who can't be bothered doing something as easy as walking half a block to a trash can, so I'm puzzled by evidence that some litterbugs are willing to go to the effort of hauling around huge bottles. I don't consider myself lazy, but when I think about the jar I took to the cafe a few days ago, I know that I wouldn't have brought it if it had been the size of the Svedka vodka bottle.

Disclaimer: Nothing written above should be taken to indicate that it's safe to drink less than the amounts given as lethal doses.

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