Bottled Water Consumption Grows in US Despite Recession, Education Efforts

Sales of bottled water in the U.S. rose 4.1 percent to 9.1 billion gallons in 2011, an all-time high, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation‘s annual survey. Despite numerous campaigns and education efforts, U.S. per capita consumption of bottled water has risen by 60 percent in the last 10 years,  from 18.2 to 29.2 gallons per person.  In 1976, Americans consumed 1.6 gallons of bottled water per person. While domestic non-sparkling water made up the vast majority of sales, even sales of imported water, which had seen precipitous drops during the recession years of  2008-10, inched up in 2011.

The increase comes in spite of years of efforts by activists to draw attention to the financial and environmental costs of the bottled beverage, countering industry efforts to tempt consumers to drink the bottled stuff.

How can we convince more people to use less bottled water?

Some jurisdictions are trying laws to ban the bottle, including:

What’s wrong with bottled water?

Some time in the future, people will look back in astonishment, wondering why millions of people shelled out so much money for a substance that could be had for mere pennies, while the bottles pollute waterways and take immense resources to produce and transport. (Did you know it takes three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water? With all that, bottled water is  not even safer to drink than readily available tap water.

It all gets recycled, right?

Wrong. While the amount of plastic bottles recycled has grown, the recycling rate has remained steady, at about 27 percent.

Time and again we have seen that purely educational efforts are not enough, as convenience and cultural norms win out over logic and information. Change needs to come from within and from the people around us, working to make a behavior unacceptable.  Everyone, from celebrities to teachers to neighbors and family members can influence others and lead by example, every day. How can we make that cool, refreshing bottle…uncool?

Related Stories:

Tap Water Is Cleaner Than Bottled Water (And Other Shocking Facts)

Univ of Vermont Bans Bottled Water on Campus

Bottled Water Industry Waging Insidious War On Tap Water


Image via iStockphoto


Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin5 years ago

my family buys a ton of bottled water even though we have pure water from the sink and fridge

Son Y.
Son Y.6 years ago

Once upon a time, there was no such THING as bottled water in plastic... [gasp]... and we SURVIVED!

Huber F.
Huber F6 years ago

Bottled water is fresh.. Thx

David H.
David Hofer6 years ago

I want to avoid the mining waste products that the water company puts in tap water, otherwise known as fluoridation. So you'll have take my bottled water out of my cold, dead hands.

Cindy B.
Cindy Black7 years ago

I AM ABSOLUTELY BUM-FOOZLED that this debate seems to be entirely: Bottled water vs. tap water!!!!!! What the heck is wrong with filtered water? I have a wonderful PUR water filter right on my faucet; it filters all impurities out of tap water. Really makes a difference in taste! I fill my water bottle and then out the door I go. About $19.00 buys you 650 gallons or so of extremely pure water, to place in the receptacle of your choice and run with.

What the heck is wrong with people???!!! WOW.

Barbara Mathiews
Barbara Mathiews7 years ago

I don't drink bottled water its a waste of money...

Elaine A.
Past Member 7 years ago

Or the BPA's in the plastic bottles when there are plant made bottles out there as I only drink purified water and out of my plant based bottles.

maria t.
maria t7 years ago

Americans will never stop using plastic! It is way to convenient and we are WAY to spoiled and don't want anything that will affect our comfort to change. Some times I am embarrassed to be human. All most humans do is waste and take and ruin and kill. It's sad that people can not see beyond their own lives and acknowledge their impact.

Michele J.
Michele Jones7 years ago

I can't tell you the times I've been without a drinking glass or bottle due to circumstances outside of my control (I travel extensively for work). So what do you expect me to do?? Dehydrate?? Water is the LAST beverage that should be banned from being placed in convenience containers. Find a safer alternative to plastic, then you can ban my water.

Edo F.
Edo F7 years ago

Plastic bottles..... Arrrrgh! And don't get me started on the ammount of other waste products I see in this crazy world polluting country!! Disposable coffee cups. Plastic cups for kids at restaurants. Straws, straws, straws. Everywhere I go I see morons with their take-out beverages and food. You know, everywhere else in the world you sit down for a cup of coffee, it gets served on a piece of crockery, then washed up.
Leslirea R. I agree with you on most points, but I'm not sure about the alcohol part. A little can be quite healthy, especially wine. I'd say you can get rid of most alcohol, but keep beer and wine - they've pretty much been around for centuries. Plus, it's kept in glass. Whatever happened to everything being in glass?? So much better than plastic.