The Real Costs of Bottled Water

water bottle trash

It’s rare to see a professional athlete photographed without a bottle of water in hand. The packaging of water bottles features snowy alpine lakes or cool minimalist designs. Bottled water is sold to us as a fresh, healthy, and pure product. Yet in reality, when you buy a bottle of water you’re may just be buying back your local tap water at a mark-up of up to 1000 times the actual cost. Not only is bottled water no better for you than plain old tap water, but the environmental cost of the packaging used to beautify it is a serious issue.

Bottled Water by the Numbers

To understand the sheer volume of bottles out there and how the bottled water industry is affecting the planet, it’s helpful to peek at a few statistics. The following facts are taken from the Food and Water Watch “Take Back the Tap” Report and the EPA.

  • In 2007 in the USA alone, bottled water production and transportation used the energy equivalent of 47 million barrels of oil. This is enough to fuel 1.5 million cars for a year.
  • Approximately 75% of plastic bottles are never recycled, despite being in demand by recyclers due to the high quality of plastics used.
  • Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of waste each year, ending up in our landfills, oceans, and lakes.
  • It can take anywhere from 450-1000 years for a plastic bottle to biodegrade.
  • Nearly half of all bottled water in 2009 came from municipal tap water supplies.

These figures make the toll that the bottled water industry is taking on the environment very clear. A high percentage of the water that we drink is merely repackaged tap water. To top it off, we’re paying for plastic bottles that require significant energy expenditure to produce and contributing to the overflowing landfills throughout the world.

Seeking Alternatives to Disposable Plastic Bottles

With the news that bottled water is a serious strain on the environment becoming common knowledge these days, why do people go on purchasing it? The answer usually boils down to taste and convenience. Although tap water is safe to drink, it may contain hints of minerals or chlorine that give it an odd aftertaste. However, this problem can be solved without plastics by using home water filters such as Bibo home water coolers or Virgin Pure systems.

There’s no denying that having water on the go is essential when you have a busy day or are exercising. Reusable water bottles solve this problem. When you have a reusable water bottle or stainless steel thermos and fill it with fresh, filtered tap water from a home water cooler, you’re essentially getting the same product that the bottled water giants are trying to sell, at a fraction of the monetary and environmental cost.

Robbie Reddy is a freelance writer interested in globalization and the environment.

Image credit: Leonard John Matthews via photo pin cc

Written by guestauthor


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  1. That’s exactly why we started ClearlyFiltered ( Just 1 of our filters replaces up to 1,600 plastic water bottles. And its cheaper.

    Now there is a way for you, as an individual to make a positive impact on the environment and not contribute plastic waste into landfills.

    Start drinking different!


  2. I think bottled water may go down as the biggest marketing boondoggle of all time. Can you imagine this: “Hey, I’ve got an idea: Let’s put municipal tap water in plastic bottles and sell it for $3 per liter!” The sensible person in the room who then asked, “Why would anyone pay money for something they can get almost for free?” has probably been exiled to the mailroom.

  3. The bullies are at it again…do you know that the soda pop bottles are PLASTIC too? So are the ketchup, mustard & mayo! So are your laundry soap, laundry pod’s, dish soap and body lotions! And for that matter your shampoo and hair conditioner. Bottled water is not the only “plastic bottles that require significant energy expenditure to produce” and are “contributing to the overflowing landfills throughout the world”. So why target just bottled water as the problem?

    Did you know that “It can take up to 132 gallons of water to produce a 2-liter bottle of soda”? Where is the outrage on environmental costs, the affects on our health or the planet here?

    Listen, i don’t like the plastic problem either! But picking on bottled water is not the answer. You and I spend billions of dollars a year to have our trash picked-up and disposed of, in a proper manner. To have islands of plastic floating in the oceans is not what were paying billions of dollars for. I can’t throw an empty bottle far enough from the sea shore for it not to return, and if I get caught I have to pay a fine as well as clean up my bottle. But the trash companies can put it on a barge, take it out to sea far enough for it not to return, and get a tax credit from the government!

    Now you run around and blame the bottled water drinkers & manufacturers for the plastic pollution and the strain on the landfills? Whats up with that? It makes no sense to me when the real polluter are the trash/garbage companies and the governments paying them to do it.

    • I won’t try to answer all of your questions, Myron, but as to your first: I don’t have utilities piping ketchup, mustard, and mayo into my house… Yes, there are better choices for packaging on all of these products, but only water’s available without it.

  4. there’s a lot of great information about the wastefulness of bottled water on the web at go to the download page and look for the pdf titled Clean Simple Smart. if you wrote down the business model of Bottled Water and tried to present it to investors 40 years ago, you would have been laughed out of the room. People really believe the water pumped from Fiji and shipped across the ocean in Chinese plastic bottles is good to drink. Check out the blog on Bottled Water while you’re on the Natural Choice website and leave a comment or join the discussion on facebook at we’d like to keep talking about this issue as it affects our planet and the quality of life for generations to come. Make a difference and get a bottleless water cooler made in the USA. thanks!

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