Global consumption of bottled water more than doubled between 1997 and 2005, reaching a total of 182 billion liters. In 2007, bottled water volumes reached 206 billion liters. According to Beverage Marketing Corporation managing director of research, Gary Hemphill, “Every segment of the bottled water industry is growing and we consider bottled water to be the most successful mass-market beverage category in the U.S.1” Consumption of bottled water reached 34.02 gallons per person, per year2. Grabbing a bottle from the refrigerator as we dash out the door, taking one-time-use bottles instead of using the convenient office water fountains or household filters may seem more convenient, but it comes with a cost:
Environmental Impact of the Bottle
- Fossil fuels are used in the packaging of water. The most commonly used plastic for making water bottles is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is derived from crude oil. Making bottles to meet world demand for bottled water requires more than 84 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel nearly 5 million cars for a year. Worldwide, some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year.
- It takes 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water. Besides the sheer number of plastic bottles produced each year, the energy required to manufacture and transport these bottles to market severely drains limited fossil fuels. Water is so heavy that a truck cannot carry a full load. Bottled water is transported long distances by ship and truck adding to the amount of energy (oil) needed to bring the bottle to your mouth.
- 94 percent of the bottled water sold in the S. is produced domestically, yet many Americans import water shipped some 9,000 kilometers from Fiji and other faraway places to satisfy demand for what people term “chic and exotic bottled water.”
- After the water has been consumed, the plastic bottle must be disposed of. The kind of plastic most commonly used for water bottles is recyclable, but consumers recycle just one of every five bottles they drink, with the rest ending up in landfills.
Health & Economy
- There is no question that clean, affordable drinking water is essential to the health of our global community. In a world in which over 1.1 billion people have no reliable source of drinking water, and 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from tainted water, bottled water is not the answer.
- In several cities of the developing world, demand for bottled water often stems from the fact that municipal water supplies – if available at all – fail to meet basic criteria for drinking water quality. But companies manufacturing bottled water are also generating large revenues in developed countries.
- Improving and expanding existing water treatment and sanitation systems are more likely to provide safe and sustainable sources of water over the long term. In villages, rainwater harvesting and digging new wells can create more affordable sources of water.
- Over the last decade, global sales of bottled water have increased dramatically to become what is estimated to be more than a US $100 billion industry. Yet it would only take $30 billion to halve the number of people who do not have ready access to clean, safe, drinking water.
- Studies show that consumers associate bottled water with healthy living. But bottled water is not guaranteed to be any healthier than tap water. In fact, roughly 40 percent of bottled water begins as tap water; often the only difference is added minerals that have no marked health benefit.
- If the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000. In the U.S., 24% of the bottled water we buy is tap water repackaged by Coke and Pepsi.
It’s only slightly more trouble to clean, fill and carry reusable water bottles or cups. Before grabbing another plastic water bottle from the refrigerator, stop and think about the impact our choice makes on the environment, our families and our communities. Grab a reusable bottle instead. Please do what you can to help….it only takes a few extra seconds.
What you can do for yourself and for your community
- At home, purchase safe plastic, heavy duty water bottles for reuse. Choose BPA free (Bisphenol A) reusable water bottles which are available online and in outdoor equipment stores (e.g. http://www.projectearthh2o.com/, http://www.nubiusorganics.com/, http://www.franklygreen.com/my_weblog/2008/07/reusable-water-bottles.html). Use the filters or water fountain to fill them each day. It is estimated that by using a reusable water bottle you could save an average of $200 per year as well as 14 pounds of plastic.
- Buy snacks and food with less plastic packaging on them.
- Bring your own reusable bags to the market instead of requesting plastic bags. You can buy reusable bags at most grocery stores in Dakar.
- For more tips, see http://myzerowaste.com/articles/general/reduce-plastic-11-tips/, on 11 simple lifestyle changes you can make to reduce plastic consumption.
USE A CUP OR A REUSABLE BOTTLE