The FDA states: “Companies that market bottled water as being safer than tap water are defrauding the American public.”Did you know that bottled water, ounce for ounce, can cost more than gasoline? And, if you’re environmentally conscious, you should also consider this statement:
It [the purchase of bottled water] causes millions of plastic bottles to be manufactured, transported and then disposed of in U.S. landfills, it’s killing our planet, and for no good reason…” Eric Olsen, Natural Resources Defense Council.
Bottled water, because it is defined as a “food” under federal regulations, is under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—under much stricter standards—regulates tap water. Thus, bottled water, depending upon the brand, may actually be less clean and safe than tap water.
While municipal water systems must test for harmful microbiological content in water several times a day, bottled water companies are required to test for these microbes only once a week.
Alarmingly, the 1999 NRDC study found that 18 of the 103 bottled water brands tested contained, in at least one sample, “more bacteria than allowed under microbiological-purity guidelines.”
Also, about one fifth of the brands tested positive for the presence of synthetic chemicals, such as industrial chemicals and chemicals used in manufacturing plastic like phthalate, a harmful chemical that leaches into bottled water from its plastic container. In addition, bottled water companies are not required to test for cryptosporidium, the chlorine-resistant protozoan that infected more than 400,000 Milwaukee residents in 1993. Bottled water companies, because they are not under the same accountability standards as municipal water systems, may provide a significantly lower quality of water than the water one typically receives from the tap.
The concerns over the quality and safety of tap water that sparked the growth of the bottled water industry are still entirely present.
“The Story of Bottled Water,” in a nutshell, accuses bottled water companies of scaring consumers by saying that tap water is dirty and contaminated, while they themselves simply bottle tap water. “Pepsi’s Aquafina and Coke’s Dasani are two of the many brands that are really filtered tap water,” the star of the video, Annie Leonard, says.
She goes on to say that 80 percent of plastic bottles end up in landfills or are burned in incinerators.
The report that found producing bottled water for the United States market consumed 17 million barrels of oil annually.
In the United States, bottled water costs range between $0.25 and $2 per bottle, while tap water costs less than a penny. In 1999, according to a NRDC study, U.S. consumers paid between 240 and 10,000 times more per unit volume for bottled water than for tap water. Typically 90 percent or more of the cost paid by bottled water consumers goes to things other than the water itself-such as bottling, packaging, shipping, marketing, retailing, other expenses, and profit.
The Showtime series Penn & Teller: Bullshit! demonstrated, in a 2003 episode, that in a controlled setting, those diners could not discern between bottled water and water from a garden hose behind the restaurant.
A number of companies worldwide have vending machines that dispense purified water into customer’s own containers. All dispensers filter the location’s tap water. In North America, these machines are typically located outside of supermarkets.
Of all the water vending companies, Glacier Water is by far the largest. Since its inception in 1983, Glacier Water has experienced significant growth in machine placements and has created an extensive network of approximately 17,000 water vending machines (year 2010) located throughout the United States and Canada.
In June of 2010, Nestlé set up four test wells to assess the Wacissa River as a potential site to pump water and truck it to a Nestlé bottling plant outside of Jefferson County, where Wacissa is located. This site would have pumped up to 1.5 million gallons of water a day from this undeveloped spring location, while taking a significant toll on the environment. Ounce for ounce, it takes nearly 2,000 times the energy to product and distribute bottled water than it does for tap water.
Research has shown that minorities consume bottled water more often than white Americans, and spend a greater proportion of their income (about 1%, compared to the 0.4% white Americans dole out) on this superfluous commodity every year. A recent study in the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine confirmed this trend – finding that Latino and black parents were three times more likely to sate their children’s thirst with bottled water, compared with white parents.
In fact, authors of the recent study note that the reliance on bottled water may contribute to dental issues in minority children who don’t benefit from the fluoride purposefully added to tap water to maintain the nation’s oral health. What’s more, a National Resources Defense Council investigation discovered the 17% of bottled waters contained unsafe levels of bacterial loads, and 22% were contaminated with chemicals, including arsenic.
Unknown to many, municipal tap water is the source for 47.8%of bottled water, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation’s annual report for 2009. Aquafina draws on the same water that you do in your kitchen, whereas Nestle gets most of its water for its regional North American brands from spring sources
Millions of Americans have been ingesting them for years—perchlorate, hexavalent chromium, volatile organic compounds—not because they’re safe, but because they are among 6,000 toxins the EPA has not gotten around to regulating in municipal drinking water systems.
The Agency (EPA) is considering eight currently regulated compounds (benzene; carbon tetrachloride; 1,2- dichloroethane; 1,2-dichloropropane; dichloromethane; tetrachloroethylene; trichloroethylene; vinyl chloride) and eight unregulated compounds (aniline; benzyl chloride; 1,3-butadiene; 1,1-dichloroethane; nitrobenzene; oxirane methyl; 1,2,3-trichloropropane and urethane). All of these VOCs are known or suspected to cause cancer.”
In the meantime, reverse osmosis won’t help you get volatile organic compounds out of your water, according to the National Santitation Foundation, but carbon filtration will.
Tap water is a local product that needs no packaging. Globally, bottled water accounts for as many as 1.5 million tons of plastic waste annually, according to the Sierra Club. Making the plastic in the bottles requires 47 million gallons of oil annually. And that doesn’t include the jet fuel and gasoline required to transport the bottles—sometimes halfway around the world.
In addition, billions of bottles end up in the ground every year. Sadly, only 20% ever get recycled, according to the Container Recycling Institute. The other 80%? Besides landfills, many bottles end up in oceans, posing a risk to marine life. By purchasing bottled water, you’re indirectly raising the price of gasoline and contributing to global climate change.
In 2007, the manufacturers of plastic water bottles generated more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, according to the Pacific Institute.
Americans drank more than 30 billion single-serving bottles of water last year. Yet the vast majority of us have an unlimited source of clean, EPA-regulated tap water flowing from our faucets. The recent scare tactics—reports of pharmaceutical drug traces being found in tap water—from the $100 billion bottled water industry don’t ring true. Until recently, the only thing tap water was missing was cool marketing and an awesome image. Problem solved.
Making, filling, and shipping billions of plastic bottles generates huge amounts of carbon dioxide emissions: 8.4 million tons last year in the U.S. alone, equivalent to 2.2 million cars on the road, according to the Pacific Institute, a research group in Oakland, Calif. Separately, some major brands have come in for criticism because the water they sell is equivalent to what comes out of most taps.
One thing has always, ALWAYS, been clear to me about the bottled water market. The market has been driven more by the inherent laziness of consumers than by any fear of the municipal water supply.
Beverage Digest reports retail sales of bottled water (excluding vending machines and Walmart) grew only 9% this year compared with 16% in 2006. Explanations abound. For one, it seems people who are paying more for gas, mortgage payments and education are taking a harder look at how much they are paying for…water. It adds up, just like those lattes at Starbuck’s. But there does seem to be multiple factors eroding the growth of water, and one of those factors is the leading edge of green consumers choosing to refill water bottles instead of buying water.
Over the summer, Bishop’s University, became the first university in Quebec to ban the sale of bottled water on campus. And there’s a good chance that Concordia, Quebec’s largest English-language university, will follow suit.
In country blessed with some of the safest drinking water in the world, many people still prefer to pay for the bottled stuff. But according to researchers in Montreal, several popular brands actually contain more bacteria than the old-fashioned water that comes from a tap. The researchers won’t reveal which brands have “surprisingly high” levels of heterotrophic bacteria, but they did say that more than 70 per cent of the samples contained levels that failed to meet basic standards for medications and health-care products. “Despite having the cleanest tap water, a large number of urban Canadians are switching over to bottled water for their daily hydration requirements,” said Sonish Azam, one of the study’s authors. “The consumer assumes that since bottled water carries a price tag, it is purer and safer than most tap water.” Not true.
From 1998 through to 2007, the bottled water market averaged a volume growth rate of 27.0% per annum. This was a function of the category being fairly new and becoming established within the South African market. The growth in popularity of bottled water was exceptional, reports BMI.
However, following this boom, category growth plummeted. From an exceptional growth of 30.4% in 2007, the volume increase recorded for 2008 was a limited 4.9%. The years to follow were much the same, with increases of 3.3% and 4.2% recorded for 2009 and 2010 respectively.
It is believed that the tapering off of the growth rate was a function of a few collective issues. Firstly, the recession translated into a decline in demand for bottled water as it is generally viewed as a non-essential item. Secondly, a few players who had entered the market were forced to close as the market became more competitive.
Avoiding Water Bottles
Only 27% of the 2.4 million tons of plastic water bottles produced in the US are recycled! That means that 73% of plastic water bottles end up in landfills – or worse, as litter! Is bottled purified water worth that cost? Before you answer, consider that up to 95 percent of the cost of bottled water is for things other than the water, like bottling and marketing. This is why many people are changing to a better type of water: point-of-use, pH optimized, alkaline water. In addition to the wasted bottles, some “purified” water bottles are often filled with water that is both acidic and from a source that may not be easy to identify. In order to give your body the water nature intended and save the environment from the millions of tons of plastic bottles, a new trend for 2011 is to install a water treatment system at home!
Overall, 18 percent of bottled waters fail to list the location of their source, and 32 percent disclose nothing about the treatment or purity of the water. Until the federal Food and Drug Administration cracks down on water bottlers, use EWG’s Bottled Water Scorecard to find brands that disclose their water’s source location, treatment and quality, and that use advanced treatment methods to remove a broad range of pollutants. Overall, more than half of the 173 bottled water brands surveyed flunked EWG’s transparency test. EWG’s last label survey (2009) found that
only two of 188 bottled water brands provided the three most basic facts about their water — source name and location, treatment and purity. Since then, the Government Accountability EWG’s 2010 survey shows that 18 percent of bottled water brands still fail to reveal their water’s geographic source; 32 percent are mum on treatment
methods and purity testing; and 13 percent publish “water quality” reports that lack any actual testing results.
More than half of the brands EWG surveyed either made no improvements in transparency — or revealed even less in 2010 than in 2009. America’s bottled water habit has consequences: every 27 hours Americans drink enough bottles of water to circle the equator with empty plastic containers. 2 Bottled water companies enjoying this massive commercial success may suspect that their customers would turn away if they knew that most of them
draw their product from municipal tap water (BMC 2010, Food and Water Watch 2010), or that the plastics used to make the bottles can be laced with chemical additives that leach into the water (EWG 2008).
Research Shows Bottled Water Not So Safe
On October 15th, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released an industry-rattling report that reveals the dirty truth about bottled water. If you regularly drink bottled water, brace yourself as the news is not pretty.
EWG conducted comprehensive testing on 10 brands of US bottled water and found an alarming array of contaminants, including:
- cancer-causing byproducts of chlorination
- fertilizer residue like nitrate and ammonia
- industrial solvents
- pharmaceuticals like Tylenol
- heavy metals and minerals including arsenic and radioactive isotopes
- a broad range of other, tentatively identified industrial chemicals
Overall the bottled water tested contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand. More than one-third of the chemicals found, are not regulated in bottled water.
In some cases, it appears bottled water is no less polluted than tap water and, at 1,900 times the cost, consumers should expect better,” said Jane Houlihan, co-author of the study.
The list of the 10 brands tested is anonymous as part of market based research, except for 2 brands: Wal-Mart and Giant bottled water brands. These 2 were actually named in this study because the first tests and numerous follow-up tests confirmed that these 2 brands contained contaminants at levels that exceeded state standards or voluntary industry guidelines.
There are several reasons people often choose bottled over tap water:
- The first is taste. Tap water is disinfected with chlorine in most locations within the US. Chlorine often causes taste issues which many people do not like.
- Another reason is people often believe that purified bottled water is simply cleaner than tap water. For most major bottled water brands this is true..
- Others drink bottled water because it is fashionable to do so.
- Lastly, some drink it so they can get more alkalinity in their water than what is provided by municipal water systems. While others, especially those with bladder or urinary problems, buy bottled water because they find brands that are lower in alkalinity.
In 2008, it took over 50 million barrels of oil just to produce plastic water bottles
12 Reasons Why We Should Stop Drinking Bottled Water
1. Plastic bottles are not safe for reuse and must be discarded.
2. Discarding billions of empty bottles is impacting the environment.
3. It takes millions of barrels of oil to make plastic bottles per year.
4. Energy costs for making bottles are rising.
5. Bottled water cost is expensive when compared to tap supply.
6. Most tap water is safe to drink.
7. Many bottles for sale are just tap water in fancy bottles.
8. Regulation is still weak in the US.
9. Consumers do not always know what is in their bottled water ingredient.
- Some can be very high in salt content.
- It must be carried home and stored.
- Some brands can taste “flat”.
New data emanating from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a research and advocacy group in the USA has labeled some bottled water overseas un-drinkable, Nigeria inclusive
In 2010, total bottled water consumption increased to 8.75 billion gallons, up from 8.45 billion gallons in 2009. Consumption per person is up 2.6% in 2010, with every person in America now drinking an average of 28.3 gallons of bottled water last year.
Joe Doss, president and CEO of IBWA. “Even during the past two slow economic years, bottled water consumption decreased less than most other major beverage categories. The steady market share increase we now are experiencing is because consumers are choosing safe, high-quality bottled water over other packaged beverages.”
Facts about bottled water
- 5.1 billion: Amount, in pounds, of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and jars available in the U.S. for recycling in 2009
- 2,456 million: Amount, in pounds, of plastic bottles – including PET and HDPE – recycled in 2009, making it a record high.
- 46: Number of plastics collection programs that were added to U.S. communities in 2009.
- 28: Percentage of PET plastic bottles that got recycled in 2009.
- 44: Percentage increase in 2009 of RPET (Recycled PET) used in food and beverage bottles.
- 2/3: The amount of energy that is saved when producing new plastic products from recycled materials instead of raw (virgin) materials. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
- Six: The number of hours that the energy conserved from recycling a single plastic bottle can light a 60-watt light bulb.
- 19: The number of 20 oz. PET bottles it takes to yield enough fiber for an extra large T-shirt or one square foot of carpet.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. More than half of all Americans drink bottled water; about a third of the public consumes it regularly. Sales have tripled in the past 10 years, to
In 2010, total bottled water consumption increased to 8.75 billion gallons, up from 8.45 billion gallons in 2009. Per-capita consumption is up 2.6% in 2010, with every person in America now drinking an average of 28.3 gallons of bottled water last year.
90% or more of the cost of bottled water goes to things other than the water itself. Bottling, packaging, shipping, marketing, etc.
The recommended eight glasses of water a day, at U.S. tap rates equals about $.49 per year; that same amount of bottled water is about $1,400.
In 2007, Americans consumed over 50 billion single serve bottles of water; between 30 and 40 million single serve bottles went into landfills each year.
It takes 17 million barrels of oil per year to make all the plastic water bottles used in the U.S. alone. That’s enough oil to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year
Antimony, which is found in PET plastic bottles, in small doses can cause dizziness and depression; in larger doses it can cause nausea, vomiting and death.
5 Reasons to ban plastic water bottles
1.It takes three to five times more water to manufacture the plastic water bottle than actually is contained in the water bottle itself. Because each bottle should only be used one time (so as not to contaminate water with phthalates) this seems to be an inordinate amount of water utilized in the manufacturing process.
2.Plastic is a petroleum product so using plastic water bottles depletes this non-renewable resource. The Pacific Institute has calculated that the manufacturing process for making plastic water bottles used in the US consumes roughly 17 million barrels of oil every year.
3.Plastic water bottles are not recycled the way they should be. It is estimated that in 2005 only about 12% of plastic water bottles were recycled. This is partly because water bottles are many times not included in local recycling plans. Another factor is that bottled water is often consumed away from home and so is disposed of in mixed-trash containers instead of being recycled. In a 2002 study by Scenic Hudson it was reported that 18 percent by volume of recovered litter from the Hudson River was beverage containers. In landfills, water bottles will remain biodegrading for approximately 1,000 years. Incinerating used water bottles produces toxic byproducts including chlorine gas and ash that contains heavy metals.
4.Roughly 94 % of the bottled water in the U.S. is bottled domestically. Of this percentage, approximately 25 percent sold is just reprocessed municipal water according to a 1999 study by the National Resources Defense Council.
5.Using plastic bottles that contain Bisphenol A is detrimental to human health. Bisphenol A behaves similarly to estrogen. This means that when enough of this accumulates in the body there will be negative health effects. Bisphenol A has been linked to obesity, diabetes, breast cancer, and hyperactivity.
If the trace pharmaceuticals and the spectre of a near-indestructible gyre of swirling plastic the size of Texas weren’t enough to scare you off bottled water, then try this: Canadian researchers have discovered that some bottled brands contain more bacteria than water that comes out of the tap. 117diggsdigg Scientists at Montreal’s C-crest Laboratories found that certain popular brands (which they refused to name) had “surprisingly high” counts of heterotrophic bacteria (meaning they need an organic source of carbon to flourish). Even though they didn’t find any serious pathogens, more than 70 percent of the well-known brands actually failed the standards for heterotrophic bacteria set by the NGO United States Pharmacopeia.
- The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 1.5 million tons of plastic are used globally each year for water bottles.1
- Most bottles are made of the oil-derived (nonrenewable resource) polyethylene terepthalate, PET2, which generates more than 100 times the toxic emissions in the form of nickel, ethylbenzene, ethylene oxide and benzene than the same amount of glass bottles.3
- According to the Earth Policy Institute, 1.5 million barrels of oil are required to make plastic bottles per year, enough to fuel 1,000 cars for a year.4
- Water supplies are falling while the demand is dramatically growing at an unsustainable rate. Over the next 20 years, the average supply of water worldwide per person is expected to drop by a third.5
- According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), bottled waters do not have greater nutritive value than tap water.6
- Delivering bottled water from far away places burn fossil fuels and results in the release of thousands of tons of harmful emissions; 22 million tons of bottled liquid is transferred each year from their country of origin7, transported by boat, train, air and ground transport.
- Bottled water that is shipped and/or stored cold requires additional electricity.
- Large amounts of energy are used in water bottling plants throughout the US and the world.8
- Energy is required to remove the empty bottles in the form of recycling or trash.
- Bottled water may be no safer or healthier than tap water in many countries while selling for up to 1,000 times the price.9
- Typically 90% or more of the cost paid by bottled water consumers goes to things other than the water itself — bottling, packaging, shipping, marketing, retailing, other expenses, and profit.10
- According to the Climate Action Network, when some plastic bottles are incinerated along with other trash, as is the practice in many municipalities, toxic chlorine (and potentially dioxin) is released into the air while heavy metals deposit in the ash.11
- § The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) estimates that supplying the US bottled water market for 1 year consumes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil, which is enough to generate electricity for more than 250,000 homes or enough to fuel 100,000 cars for an entire year.12
- The CRI estimates that 90% of plastic water bottles end up as either garbage or litter.13
- Plastic accounts for 25% of the total volume of material sent to landfills every year and plastic water bottles can take as long as 1,000 years to biodegrade.14
- Pumping water from the ground to make bottled water dries out fresh water springs, destroys habitats, devastates ecosystems, and drains freshwater aquifers.15
- Tap water is distributed through an energy-efficient infrastructure.16
- Approximately 40 percent of bottled water begins as tap water.17
- Less than 5 percent of plastic waste is recycled each year.18
- Plastics are the fastest growing sector in the waste stream and currently take up 25 percent of the volume of materials sent to landfills each year.19
- There are many environmental costs that society must pay, such as loss of groundwater, toxic emissions from plastic production and destruction, air pollution from transporting the products, and the disposal of loads of empty bottles.
- Americans will buy an estimated 25 billion single-serving, plastic water bottles this year. Eight out of 10 (22 billion) will end up in a landfill.20
- Bottled water is a rip off – consumers spend an estimated $7 billion on bottled water in US each year.
- § Worldwide 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year.21
- 1.5 million barrels of oil is used annually to produce plastic water bottles for America alone – enough to fuel some 100,000 U.S. cars for a year.22
- The bottled water you purchase is often in #1 PET or PETE bottles (polyethylene terephthalate), which may leach DEHA, a known carcinogen, if used more than once.23
- A growing problem – “in 1990, Americans bought 1.1 billion pounds of plastic in the form of bottles, according to the Container Recycling Institute20. In 2002, they bought more than three times that – 4 billion pounds.”24
- Increasing evidence of adverse health effects tied to Bisphenol A, or BPA a widely used chemical in the manufacturing of plastic polycarbonate bottles, including baby bottles, water bottles and food / beverage containers.
- Like all plastic, these bottles will be with us forever since plastic does not biodegrade; rather, it breaks down into smaller and smaller toxic bits that contaminate our soil and waterways.
- Along with plastic bags, plastic bottles are one of the most prevalent sources of pollution found on our beaches.
- Many studies show that the quality of bottled water may be no better than tap water.