We grab one for the road, on the way to the gym, or simply to quench our thirst. It’s a luxury many of us take for granted. But this little culprit is really just a wolf in sheep’s clothing: The single-use plastic bottle. It may be convenient, but it’s an environmental nightmare.
Though some eco-friends have switched from the plastic bottle to a reusable bottle, many are guilty of succumbing to the ease of purchasing a bottle of water or a case from the supermarket. Many ask, so what? What could possibly be so terrible about a nice cold bottle of water? Well I’ve outlined a few reasons to drop the bottle.
The production, transportation and disposal of plastic water bottle containers creates a surprising amount of environmental harm. We visited that topic in a previous article on this site. Manufacturing plastic water bottles requires large quantities of petroleum and the chemical polyethylene terephthalate (PET) to make the bottles. Energy to fill the bottles, to ship them to consumers, to refrigerate; and landfill space to dispose of them all take their toll.
Bottled water may not be as safe as you think. In fact, the Natural Resources Defense Council conducted a study in which they discovered approximately 25-40% of bottled water is actually tap water. Tap water is closely monitored by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States government spends about $43 billion annually to ensure its safety. Bottled water is subject to less stringent regulations, and the Food and Drug Administration, charged with regulating bottled water, is not required to disclose results of contamination testing. If you’re concerned about the safety of your tap water, you can have it tested locally or purchase an inexpensive home filtration system.
The United States is the biggest offender when it comes to bottled water consumption, followed by Brazil, China and Mexico. According to the Pacific Institute, Americans purchased more than 31.2 billion liters of bottled water in 2006 at a cost of more than $15 billion. The growing water bottle habit causes immeasurable harm to the environment. To quench the thirst of Americans in 2006, the Pacific Institute estimates that water bottle consumption resulted in the use of approximately 900,000 tons of plastic more than 45 million gallons of oil. The amount of energy needed to produce one water bottle is the equivalent of filling a plastic water bottle one quarter of the way full with oil. Water is also wasted in the process and many estimate that for every one-liter of bottled water produced, two liters are wasted.
After production, bottles of water must be shipped to local supermarkets. This transportation contributes to the release of carbon dioxide and subsequent air pollution. About 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere in 2006 during the production and transportation of bottled water. One brand of water ships bottles all around the world, and contributes to air pollution through this excessive transportation. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Fiji water, bottled on the islands of Fiji, shipped an estimated 18 million bottles of water to California in 2006, resulting in the emission of about 2,500 tons of CO2. To produce Fiji water, empty bottles are sent to Fiji from China, then filled and shipped to consumers.
Here’s more bad news: The New York Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that a mere 10% of plastic water bottles are recycled when finished. The remaining 90% are thrown in the trash and are often incinerated with other garbage. According to and article on MSN Money, nearly 38 million water bottles arrived at landfills in 2007, an estimated $1 billion worth of recyclable plastic. The incineration of plastic water bottles releases toxins and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
So next time you’re tempted by that refreshing, chilled water bottle, think again. Replace bottled water with a high-quality home filtration system and a reusable, non-plastic bottle. Encourage your friends to follow your lead.
Photo courtesy of Treehugger.com.