The majority of Americans exhibit a strong sense of environmental stewardship and social responsibility. Most of us endeavor to make environmentally beneficial choices in many aspects of our daily living. Yet, we often ignore one of the major contributors to the precarious plight of the planet: plastic bottles.
Do you respect and show gratitude for the blessings of the environment?
If so, read on.
Bottled water is simply drinking water packaged in plastic bottles. The water may be well water, spring water or mineral water: carbonated or not. Some bottled water is flavored either with natural or artificial flavors and sweeteners.
3.2 million people worldwide die each year from contaminated water borne disease. Do you know, 780 million people worldwide do not have a clean drinking water: that’s 1 out of every 9 people in the world. Think about it! This heartbreaking number includes more than a sixth of the world population, yet we, as Americans, spend billions of dollars annually for the convenience of drinking from a disposable plastic bottle instead of a glass of water from the tap. The practice is shameful, wasteful and foolish.
On July 12, 2013, the beverage industry released sales numbers for bottled water sales. The report shows bottled water consumption in creased to 8.75 billion gallons with every person in America drinking an average of 28.3 gallons of bottled water last year.
1.5 million tons of plastic are processed into bottles for water each year. It requires more than 25 times the amount of water to make a plastic bottle than the bottle contains. Although millions of bottles of water are manufactured in the United States, greater than 300 million gallons of bottled water are imported to the United States yearly.
In many parts of the world, bottled water is an absolute necessity: the only source of non-contaminated water available. In America, buying bottled water is often simply an indulgence. Despite justifications, it is not a harmless indulgence; nor is it cheap. Brands of bottled water sold in the U.S. can cost up to $3 a bottle. Tap water expenditure for the same amount of liquid can be measured in pennies. A report recently commissioned by Swiss-based World Wildlife International states, “”Bottled water may be no safer or healthier than tap water while selling for up to 1,000 times the price.” To explain the discrepancy in price, the WWF notes, “The reason, according to the environmental group, is an absence of standards regulating bottled water. “In fact,” said the WWF report, “there are more standards regulating tap water in Europe and the United States than those applied to the bottled water industry.”
· “Bottled water isn’t a long-term sustainable solution to securing access to healthy water,” stated WWF’s Richard Holland. “Clean water is a basic right. Protecting our rivers, streams and wetlands will help ensure that tap water remains a service which delivers good quality drinking water for everyone at a fair price.”
· “Bottled water is a business that is fundamentally, inherently and inalterably unconscionable,” said Michael J. Brune, executive director of the Rainforest Action Network. “No side deals to protect forests or combat global warming can offset that reality.”
Disposable plastic water bottles present an environmental nightmare. Less than 3 decades ago, the bottled water business in the United States barely survived. Today, U.S. consumers spend more on “designer” bottled water than they spend on iPads, iPods, laptops, cell phones, family vacations or movie passes. As a nation, we purchase more than 30 billion single-serving bottles of water per year: that’s over $15 billion annually. Bottled water is recognized as the fastest growing beverage industry in the world: valued at more than $22 billion a year.
Fewer than 15 percent of plastic bottles are recycled. The rest end up in landfill systems and cost America’s cities over $70 million dollars per year for cleanup and landfill operating expenditures. If you think that plastic water bottles are not a pollution problem, one only has to look at the massive garbage stew swirling around in the middle of the Pacific. Composed primarily of waste plastic including fishing nets, tackle, product packaging materials and millions and millions of discarded plastic water bottles, the toxic floating garbage dump is twice the size of Texas.
The United States creates in excess of 800,000 tons of plastic bottle pollution yearly: substantially contributing to global warming. In 2012, Americans carelessly discarded more than 38 billion plastic water bottles: about $1 billion worth of plastic.
The problem wouldn’t be so mind-boggling if the bottles that were not recycled were at least disposed of properly. Over 55 percent of that 800,00 tons of plastic bottles never makes it to the landfill. Many are flung along the side of the trails and roadways of America while a large percentage end up in our waterways.
That’s a shameful waste of valuable resources and blight on the environment. 1.5 million barrels of oil, or more than enough to fuel 100,000 automobiles for more than a year, were consumed to manufacture these bottles. These eye-opening numbers do not even include the cost of all the fossil fuels consumed in shipping and delivering this massive volume of liquid.
If you are wasting your hard earned money on bottled water, you are basically purchasing plastic: manufactured from petroleum. When purchasing a bottle of water, what we’re really paying for is the bottle its self. The primary problem with bottled water production is its reliance on fossil fuels. From production, to packaging, to transportation, bottled water depends on petroleum. This process consumes 17 million barrels of oil each year and releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment.
In the United States alone, 1 billion liters of water a week is transported via planes, trains, ships and trucks. For a mental image of the magnitude of the task to move a billion liters of water, imagine a giant convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheeler semi-trucks. Extremely heavy, water weighs 8 1/3 pounds a gallon: heavy and bulky to transport. The World Wildlife Foundation is just one of many environmental “watchdogs” voicing concern about the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from the transportation of this mind-boggling volume of bottled water.
There is an easy eco-friendly solution: tap water is far less expensive. As an investigative reporter for the NY Times points out, “Almost all municipal water in America is so good that nobody needs to import a single bottle from Italy or France or the Fiji Islands. Clean and safe drinking water should be public and affordable. The more the wealthy opt out of drinking tap water, the less political support there will be for investing in developing and maintaining America’s public water supply. That would be a serious loss”.
In a previous rant about the problems that bottled water consumption creates, I mentioned, “Access to inexpensive, pure water is basic to a nation’s health. In Fiji, a state-of-the-art factory spins out more than a million bottles a day of the hippest bottled water on the U.S. market while more than half the people in Fiji do not have a pure or dependable source of drinking water. This means it is easier for the average American in Los Angeles or New York to quench their thirst with refreshing Fiji water than it is for the majority of people in Fiji.” (Note: The Fuji company provides jobs and contributes to the island economy while endeavoring to help alleviate local water distribution shortfalls.)
Meanwhile, if you choose to get your recommended eight to ten glasses a day from bottled water, you could spend up to $1,500 or more every year. The same amount of tap water would cost pennies a day. Recent studies show that many brands of bottled water fail to meet industry guidelines, and the cost of even low quality bottled water can grow quite high.The majority of bottled water is just plain tap water. Many bottled water producers simply repackage tap water into plastic bottles, selling back the bottled tap water at prices higher than gasoline and increasing just as fast.
As an example, Aquafina was recently pressured finally into amending its product label to inform consumers that Aquafina water comes from tap water. Ask yourself, why not drink tap water? In fact, more than a quarter of bottled water is just processed tap water.
Plastic containers can leach dangerous chemicals into the water you drink: namely bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA. The endocrine-disrupting chemical is implicated in cancer and a plethora of other illnesses. BPA is a hardening agent added to plastic to increase durability. BPA is found in baby bottles, water bottles and food can liners. There is increased opposition to it use due to its possible toxic carcinogenic effects. Because of this perceived danger, BPA-free plastics are a preferred option. Due to public concern, some plastic bottle manufacturers are stopping using BPA in their products. However, the majority of plastic bottles in the marketplace contain the concern-causing chemical.
The toxins from BPA are released over time, when heating liquids in plastic or when water stored in plastic bottles sits in sunlight for an extended period of time. If you toss a bottle on the seat of your car and leave it in the sun, it can’t be good for you plus there is no way of knowing if the water bottle was stored in the sun or an overheated warehouse during the production, shipping or distribution process.
Because you don’t want to ingest BPA, the use of refillable plastic bottles is not recommended. Many plastic receptacles have a label on the bottle warning the consumer not to reuse. That warning is there for a reason. Seems the longer you use the plastic bottle, the more likely it is to leach noxious chemicals into your water. Scientists tell us that within just two weeks of avoiding consuming water or other liquids packaged in plastic, the BPA levels in our bodies falls dramatically.
Christopher Padgett, an environmental scientist advises, “The biggest health risk when you reuse these bottles is that bacteria could develop in the bottle between uses. Bacteria from your mouth is transferred into the bottle each time you use it, which will eventually contaminate the bottle. Make sure to wash the bottles thoroughly with hot water and soap in between uses. Dry them thoroughly as well. It is recommended that you only reuse a plastic bottle once to reduce the risk of bacteria growing.”
There is an easy and inexpensive solution. If you are not confident in your local water supply or wish to filter tap water when on the go, carbon-filtered tap water’s safer and costs much less than bottled water. According to the Environmental Working Group, “carbon filtration of tap water will dramatically lower levels of toxic by products; it is also 10 to 20 times less expensive than bottled water, and does not produce the waste and pollution associated with the packaging and transport of bottled water”.
Inexpensive portable water filters are an ideal solution for fast and easy water filtration on the go. A portable water filter allows anyone to filter their own water, no matter where they travel; across town or around the world. A portable water filter allows you to free yourself from any unpleasant taste, additives or contaminates while protecting the environment and your pocketbook. Get the whole family involved – a five-member family could save well over $7,500.00 a year.
Wake up America! Let’s cease being unwitting dupes of manipulative and often false advertising. Think about it. The bottled watered industry markets to overwhelm us with a product we often don’t need. They are pushing a product solely based on presentation and packaging. Ask yourself how this happened and what the long-range impact may be on the fragile eco-system of our planet.
In the event of an emergency or if local water in not potable, bottle water is a life giving Godsend.
Let’s just show some sense and consider how our water purchasing habits affect our health, the planet and our pocketbook.
By: Marlene Affeld