9 Reasons Not to Drink Bottled Water But One Reason Why It’s Not so Bad for the Environment
Bottled water epitomises the destructive, extravagant and wasteful nature of our modern society. Bottled water has therefore developed into a hate figure of the environmental movement but why is it so bad for you and the environment:
Bottled water adds food miles to a basic necessity through transportation from one water basin to another (sometimes thousands of miles away). Previously we had done this with pipes and pumps; bottled water relies on lorries and plastic. Unnecessary movement means energy is burnt, carbon is released and we make one of our most basic needs yet more carbon intensive.
2) Waste of Oil
Transporting a heavy element results in wasted oil as does the manufacture of the bottles to hold that live giving substance. In a time of peak oil we should not be wasting oil. We need to preserve this oil for the manufacturing of food and plastics that we will need in the future.
3) Plastic Rubbish
Finished with drinking our spring water the majority of us will the throw that plastic bottle into the dump. We are turning one of our most precious resources into rubbish that will then sit in a landfill site for about 450 years or get washed into the sea. Worldwatch Institute highlights the problem:
Each year, about 2 million tons of PET bottles end up in landfills in the United States; in 2005, the national recycling rate for PET was only 23.1 percent, far below the 39.7 percent rate achieved a decade earlier.
This rubbish is not necessary and it just means more waste, less oil and more costs for both the environment and humanity.
4) Expensive Luxury
Here is a nice calculator to estimate how much bottled water costs you personally extra (unfortunately it excludes the externalised environmental costs). The average consumer gives out an extra $500 per year. That is quite some fancy waste of money.
5) Morally Disgusting
Look at the above statistic. We spend that extra so that our water can be wrapped in plastic. 800 million people have no access to clean water. To reach the sanitation and safe water Millennium goal would take some US $ 11.3 billion per year. Americans drinking bottled water works out at 150 billion dollars; how can we morally justify that!
6) Less Regulated
In the US at least this is the case because tap water falls under the EPAs mandate whereas bottled water, being classified as a food, falls under the authority of the Food & Drug Administration which has weaker regulations. Drinking botttled water means that the company supllying that water has less regulation and the ability to cut corners. Why would you risk it?
Plastic when in contact with water leaches Phthalate which can cause cancers or infertility (so much for part of a healthy lifestyle). There is also the debate whether we expose ourselves to chemicals through drinking or breathing as Sandra Steingraber points out in Having Faith:
the sense of safety offered by bottled water is a mirage. It turns out that breathing, not drinking, constitutes our main route of exposure to volatile pollutants in tap water, such as solvents, pesticides, and byproducts of water chlorination. As soon as the toilet is flushed or the faucet turned on—or the bathtub, the shower, the humidifier, the washing machine—these contaminants leave the water and enter the air. A recent study shows that the most efficient way of exposing yourself to chemical contaminants in tap water is to turn on a dishwasher. [...] We enjoy the most intimate of relationships with our public drinking water, whether we want to or not.
8) Marketed Rubbish
It is supposed to make you healthier, younger and sportier, but so does tap water. When Coca Cola launched its Dasani Water in 2004 it was actually water from London’s mains supply and not from a spring at all. Another pointless industry supported by clever propaganda, oh sorry I mean advertising.
9) Encourages Privatisation
Through removing the richest from the water supply you discourage them to invest in the public infrastructure. This privatization in some countries means that water is becoming something of a luxury instead of a basic right. In America there are social movements trying to protect locals historical rights to their water from bottled water companies.
But wait, Is it really all bad?
10) Does it not take market share from more energy intensive drinks?
It is now fashionable to drink bottled water and people are moving away from other drinks that are not delivered by the tap and are yet more energy intensive thanbottled water. It can be argued that the shift to bottled water is causing the milk or juice industry to lose market share. Bottled water is therefore actually helping the environment. The only problem is that we could achive yet a greater carbon saving when people switched from milk, juice and cola to tapped water instead of bottled.
We have created new jobs, new money and a new industrial sector through the bottled water industry but at the same time we have created a major headache for the environment. There is a simple remedy to this headache: it’s a tap and a stainless steel thermos.
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