Before I start in on how bad plastic water bottles are let me throw something out there. The folks that this article is intended for are those who already have access to clean drinking water. While single use plastic bottles make no sense, the bottom line is, if you do not have access to adequate drinking water, then you’ve got larger issues at stake and you need to do what is necessary to maintain your health.
Now that that’s taken care of, let’s talk about how ridiculous plastic water bottles are for the rest of us. I must say that I am privileged to have not been brought up on plastic water bottles and as such, have never had to wean myself off of them. Having said that, I’ve never seen their appeal in the first place.
Assuming you have clean water coming into your house like most of the United States does, let’s put this in perspective. Imagine if you will a world where there was a magical system bringing soda, juice and beer directly into your house, each costing you only pennies a gallon. You could turn it on any time you wanted and get clean clear wonderful beverages, and it was like this in every household you knew.
Now imagine that one day, companies started bottling and selling these very same beverages to you for 1,000 times the amount, and that you had to go to the store to buy them and lug them home in cases. Can you see it? Can you see your Uncle Morris heading out to the store for a cold six-pack rather than filling up his mug out of the kitchen wall, and paying 1,000 times as much for it to boot?
Of course not, it’s a ridiculous scenario. Yet for some reason, John Q Public has been convinced that this is the only way to drink water, and furthermore has decided that the water coming into his house is no longer drinkable. The entire thing is a huge waste of money, a huge waste of energy, a huge waste of resources, a huge waste of water and is one of the greatest marketing shams of our time.
So just how bad is bottled water? Let’s look at some statistics.
• This year more than 25 billion single use plastic water bottles will be sold in the United States alone and more than 80 percent of those will end up being disposed of rather than being recycled (that’s 20 billion bottles to the landfill Virginia!).
• Over 1.5 million barrels of oil were used to make the plastic bottles consumed in the US last year–and that doesn’t include the petroleum used to transport them.To put that in perspective, that’s enough petroleum to power 100,000 automobiles for a year!
• Drinking out of bottled water actually wastes water, using up to five times as much, and in a world where many people don’t have adequate drinking water, that’s just wrong.
• Bottled water sold across state lines is not necessarily regulated while tap water is strictly regulated so you have no idea what you are drinking when you pop open a cold one.
• Certain plastics have been shown to leach Biphesenol A, a hormone disruptor. While this is not a problem in all bottled water, who’s to say what scientists will find leaching from plastics down the road.
• While some bottles do end up getting recycled, in reality they are downcycled, being turned into other products leaving most new water bottles to require virgin plastic.
• There is a belief that every adult should drink 8 bottles of water a day, a myth most likely created by water retailers. There is no scientific evidence to prove this and while it is important to stay hydrated, this is akin to saying every adult should eat 8.2 pounds of food a day.
Moving on, let’s tackle two of the biggest reasons I hear from people who use plastic water bottles.
“Plastic water bottles are convenient because they are easy to grab and you can find them anywhere.”
Well, you can’t find them in my house, or a large number of other places where there is drinkable water coming out of the tap. In fact, I’d bet that there are more places with sinks and fountains out there than there are water kiosks, unless of course you’re in Vegas, but that’s another story. Besides, if you are talking about how convenient they are, you need to calculate in the amount of energy it takes to lug them through the store, lug them home, and then the aggravation of stubbing your toe on them late at night as you are trying to get to the kitchen. Compared to turning on the tap, bottled water is much more of a hassle.
“It’s so cheap.”
Not so Mrs. Brown! Let’s say you drink 2 bottles a day 300 days a year. At $1 a bottle that’s $600. Now I can get the same amount of water out of my tap at home for about $3. Add on a filter and that goes up to around $5. But let’s say you can get the bottles for a penny – I’ve still got you beat by $3 (and you can’t find them for a penny). Make sense? Wait, I’m not done yet. I haven’t factored in the amount of money you are paying in taxes for your local landfill and recycling center, the fuel you used to get it to your house, or the hospital bill for fixing that toe.
The end of the story is that as long as you have drinkable water coming into your house, bottled water makes absolutely no sense. If you are drinking it you are not only adding to the destruction of the planet by partaking in something completely unnecessary, but you are filling the coffers of corporations who have convinced you that you need to buy something you already get for practically nothing.
So how ‘bout it? Ready to give up on bottled water?
Dave Chameides is an environmental educator and freelance filmmaker. He writes alternative fuel articles for Edmunds.com and maintains the blogs 365 Days of Trash and Achieving Sustainability. While he is presently saving all of his trash for a year to better understand his environmental impact, his main focus is sustainability through education and believes that with knowledge all things are possible.