Top 6reasons to avoid bottled water are global in nature. Especially in the developed world — US and European Countries — there are many alternatives, mostly even better than bottled water. Choosing to be part of the solution to resolve plastic pollution and reduce carbon emissions while increasing access to drinkable water is a simple objective. It all comes to our choices.
Among the top reasons to avoid bottled water:
1–1 million bottles a minute and counting
No matter how you look at this — it’s not sustainable. 60 million bottles per hour… 1.4billion a day!
Only 9% of these “highly recyclable bottles” have been recycled. They are mostly not even REcycled, but DOWNcycled.
2 — Carbon footprint
The most surprising aspect of writing this article was the difficulty in finding an unbiased study on the carbon footprint of water. The majority of the resources available online are funded, or conducted, by the bottled water industry.
There is one article that summarizes the found studies and results in one place. However, before jumping into that let’s consider all the different aspects of carbon emissions of bottling water.
- Bottle: extraction, production, processing, transportation, collection, recycling, waste management of the plastic and bottle.
- Water: extraction, processing, bottling, transportation of the water
The article reports that the carbon emissions from the plastic bottles globally is equal to about 74million cars. That is equal to ALL the cars in the Top 15 States (Including California, Texas, Florida, New York)! It is also equal to ALL the cars in Japan, or ALL the cars in Brazil! They are developed countries with BIG economies.
Bottled water is usually brought to Western countries from far away places — like Fiji. The carbon footprint in processing, bottling, transporting, and discarding one plastic water bottle is hundreds of times more than drinking tap water. We are fortunate in the western world to have access to clean and healthy tap water.
3 — Water filled with toxins and microplastics
Multiple studies have confirmed that water in plastic bottles aren’t necessarily healthier than everyday tap water. In some studies bottled water sold in the US contained alarming rates of arsenic — among other toxins.
This detailed and reliable article from Consumer Reports explains how the quality of bottled water, especially in the US, is a mystery at best.
Other studies have shown that there are microplastics in bottled water.
Additional concerns and studies cover the harmful effects of bottled water exposed to changing temperatures during transportation and storage, as well as the duration of time the water remains in the bottle.
4 — Increased water usage
A few years ago studies found that to make one liter of bottled water, on average, companies use nearly 1.4 liters of water. The additional .4liters used in the washing, processing, and filling phases of the process. While it is an efficient system compared to other bottled beverages such as soda or beer — considering that bottling water is not required in the first place, we can compare to tap water. Which has no additional water usage except for washing the glass, or reusable bottle.
5 — Harm done to populations near water sources -
Many disadvantaged populations end up giving up their free water to multi-billion dollar companies to sell them for a profit. Access to clean and free water is threatened and reduced, while the cost of living and amount of pollution is increased.
This article provides an in depth review of the impact on removing water from First Nation and other disadvantaged populations.
6 — Increasing costs of drinking water
Bottled water increases the cost of available water for disadvantaged communities.
The sheer number of water bottled and increased demand also increases the cost of bottled water to those who need it most, and who are on the lower end of the economic spectrum.
Additionally, increased consumption of bottled water also increases the cost of waste management and it dramatically increases the amount of waste that needs to be managed — globally = 1million bottles per minute turn into waste that need to be managed. Even in the US only 35% of plastic bottles are recycled. Majority of other countries do not have any capacity to recycle or manage that waste, and hence end up burning the plastic or dumping them into the environment or rivers.
Regardless of whichever way we look at it — there is a better way than using disposable water bottles. The benefits are global. Every single person can contribute and benefit from avoiding the use of bottled water.
Yes — there are situations where bottled water is the only answer — especially when traveling in certain countries where no healthy, clean, and safe drinking water exist.
Instead of getting the countries who do not need bottled water to use it, the question that needs to be asked is how do you get safe and clean drinking water to countries who don’t have access in the 21st century.
Within the Top 10 countries with highest bottled water consumption — China ranks first, while India is 10th with a big (10billion gallons vs. 1 billion gallons) difference. Consider the population size (over a billion in both countries), and their economies — this leads to many questions. How does India manage with so much less bottled water?
The second country however is the US — there is no problem with getting safe drinking water in the US — especially when used with widely available filters.
Solutions do exist as long as we ask the right questions and work to solve real societal problems rather than focusing on creating more profits from something we know is harming us and the environment.