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.