Dec 14

The Problem With Bottled Water & Its Effects On Our Environment

Individual use of plastic water bottles has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Not only is bottled water much more expensive than tap water, but there is also a serious cost to our planet:

  • 1.5 million barrels of oil are used annually to manufacture plastic water bottles. (Earth Policy Institute)
  • 2 million tons of plastic bottles are land filled every year. (Worldwatch Institute)
  • Only 1 out of every 10 plastic bottles is recycled.
  • Bottled water has to either be pumped out of the ground or treated. Up to 1500 gallons of water are wasted during this process.
  • Bottled water uses fossil fuels in the making, filling, transporting, and recycling of plastic water bottles…up to 187 gallons of oil are spent! To learn more about this process, check out “The Story of Bottled Water” at www.storyofstuff.org/bottledwater.php
  • 1 billion pounds of CO2 is emitted in the transportation of bottled water in the United States alone.
  • 40% of PET bottles recycled in the United States in 2004 were exported – adding to the resources used.

Bottled water is drinking water packaged in plastic or glass containers. The dominant form is water packaged in new Polyethylene terephthalate bottles and sold retail. Another method of packaging is in larger high-density polyethylene plastic bottles, or polycarbonate plastic bottles, often used with water coolers.

Wasted material

The major criticism of bottled water concerns the bottles themselves. Individual use bottled water is generally packaged in Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). According to a NAPCOR study, PET water bottles account for 50% of all the PET bottles and containers collected by curbside recycling, and the recycling rate for water bottles is 23.4%, an increase over the 2006 rate of 20.1%. PET bottled water containers make up one-third of 1 percent of the waste stream in the United States.An estimated 50 billion bottles of water are consumed per annum in the US and around 200 billion bottles globally.

Health effects

Bottled water does not imply a specific treatment process or better process than tap water or another water source. Some bottled water is simply tap water bottled and sold. In the United States, the FDA regulates bottled water whilst the EPA regulates the quality of tap water and has created 90 maximum contaminant levels for drinking water and 15 secondary maximum contaminant levels.

According to a 1999 NRDC study, in which roughly 22 percent of brands were tested, at least one sample contained chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits. Some of the contaminants found in the study could pose health risks if consumed over a long period of time. However, the NRDC report conceded that “most waters contained no detectable bacteria, and the levels of synthetic organic chemicals and inorganic chemicals of concern for which were tested were either below detection limits or well below all applicable standards.” Meanwhile, a report by the Drinking Water Research Foundation found that of all samples tested by NRDC, “federal FDA or EPA limits were allegedly exceeded only four times, twice for total coliforms and twice for fluorides.”

The rate of total dissolved solids is sometimes 4 times higher in bottled mineral waters than in bottled tap ones.

Another study, conducted by the Goethe University at Frankfurt found that a high percentage of the bottled water, contained in plastic containers were polluted with estrogenic chemicals. Although some of the bottled water contained in glass were found polluted with chemicals as well, the researchers believe some of the contamination in the plastic containers may have come from the plastic containers themselves.

Bottled water vs tap water

In the United States, bottled water costs between $0.25 and $2 per bottle while tap water costs less than US$0.01.In 1999, according to a NRDC study, U.S. consumers paid between 240 and 10,000 times more per unit volume for bottled water than for tap water.Typically 90 percent or more of the cost paid by bottled water consumers goes to things other than the water itself—bottling, packaging, shipping, marketing, retailing, other expenses, and profit.

In some areas, tap water may contain added fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay and cavities, but may also produce negative toxicological side-effects.

Bottled water has reduced amounts of copper, lead, and other metal contaminants since it does not run through the plumbing pipes where tap water is exposed to metal corrosion. However, this varies by the household and plumbing system.

In a study with 57 bottled water samples and tap water samples, all of the tap water samples had a bacterial content under 3 CFUs/mL and the bottled water samples’ bacterial content ranged from 0.01-4900 CFUs/mL(colony-forming unit). Most of the water bottle samples were under 1 CFU/mL, though there were 15 water bottle samples containing 6-4900 CFUs/mL.

In another study comparing 25 different bottled waters, most of the samples resulted exceeding the contaminant level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‎ (EPA) for mercury, thallium, and thorium. Being exposed to these contaminants in high concentration for long periods of time can cause liver and kidney damage, and increase risk for lung and pancreas disease.

In much of the developed world chlorine is often added as a disinfectant. If the water contains organic matter, this can produce other products in the water such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids. The level of residual chlorine found is small at around 00.2g per litre which is too small to directly cause any health problems.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and World Wildlife Fund have all urged their supporters to consume less bottled water. Anti-bottled water campaigns and organizations, such as Corporate Accountability International, typically argue that bottled water is no better than tap water, and emphasize the environmental side-effects of disposable plastic bottles.

The Showtime series Penn & Teller: Bullshit! demonstrated, in a 2007 episode, that in a controlled setting, diners could not discern between bottled water and water from a garden hose behind the restaurant.

Privatization of water

The United Church of Christ, United Church of Canada, National Council of Churches, National Coalition of American Nuns and Presbyterians for Restoring Creation are among some of the religious organizations that have raised questions about whether or not the “privatization” of water is ethical. They regard the industrial purchase and repackaging at a much higher resale price of a basic resource as an unethical trend.

The recent documentary Tapped argues against the bottled water industry, asserting that tap water is healthier, more environmentally sustainable and more ecologically just than bottled water. The film focuses on the bottled water industry in the United States. The film has largely seen positive reviews, and has spawned college campus groups such as Beyond the Bottle.

Tapped is a film that examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil. visit: http://www.tappedthefilm.com/

The Answer?

Home Water Filter Systems. Fortunately, there is an inexpensive and reliable alternative to tap water and bottled water. Home water filter systems are a far better option than bottled water in every way. A quality home water filter system filters out the dangerous contaminants found in tap water, including lead, chlorine, herbicides and pesticides. The home water filter industry has developed a wide variety of filter options, from drinking water filters to attach to your kitchen faucet, to under sink filters to shower filters to whole house water filters.

For pennies per gallon, a quality home water filter system turns your tap water into clean, healthy and safe water. No more bottles to deal with, no more bad taste or smell to your water, and no more concern about the water you and your family are drinking every day. For your health, for your budget and for our environment, a MultiPure home water filter is the best choice by far.