The Insanity of Bottled Water

Most concerned citizens find that it is increasingly hard to argue against the fact that waste management has become a gigantic problem in the world, with landfills growing to the size of small counties, oceans being used as dumps and recycling habits remaining dismally low on the radar. The number of plastic bottles produced by the bottled water industry and subsequently discarded by careless consumers has not just exacerbated this problem but added on extra detritus to an already polluted planet, the majority of which is not bio-degradable.

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The pic above is from environmental artist and photographer Chris Jordan, check his website for reality checks on pollution, it is mind-boggling. And extremely depressing.


According to the L.A Times late last year, nearly 70 percent of Californians drink bottled water. And by the end of this year, bottled water will have moved past milk, coffee and beer to become the second most popular beverage behind soft drinks, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp.

I did write some time last year about the sheer insanity of transporting bottled water across the globe and apart from the trail of fossil fuels burned and greenhouse gases emitted, the most spectacular result is that manufacturing and transporting that 1-kg bottle uses 6.74 kg of water (7 times more than the content of the bottle!) So much for careless wastefulness, and if that does not convince you then BPA will.

University of Missouri-Columbia researcher Frederick vom Saal, a professor of reproductive biology and neurobiology, is quoted in Missouri Resources (Winter 2008, p. 15) that traces of Bisphenol-A have been found “in nearly every American tested for it and that tests on laboratory animals found it produces a long list of ailments.”

Aluminum bottles are also a danger, as they require a special chemical coating that often peels off into the water you drink. That chemical? None other than our old fiend, bisphenol A. Bottled water’s popularity is fueled in part by suspicions over the quality of tap water. Frankly, I think local authorities should blitz the media with a barrage of advertising spots on the true qualities of tap water.

Let me state a few known facts, taken from various Eco sites such as the Earth911.com, us.oneworld.net, commondreams.org, web.md.com, filterforgood.com, earthpolicy.org, and a host of others such as Grist, Greenpeace et all: the average price of a liter of bottled water varies from $1.50 to $2.50, more for luxury brands such as Fiji, which means that it is roughly 2,000 times more expensive than tap water (depending on your water rates).

The average person in the US spends $400 per year ($300 in the EU). The latest bottled water “census” tells us that 26,000,000,000 units are sold in the North America each year (I can’t find reliable figures for the entire world and I’m certain that it would make our heads spin! Check this pdf for bottled water consumption country by country, from 1999 to 2004)

Of these 26,000,000,000 bottles, 86% find their way into landfills (and quite a fews get thrown into the sea). According to the Earth Policy Institute 1,500 bottles are discarded every effing second!

26,000,000,000 plastic bottles mean that it took 17,000,000 barrels of oil to produce, enough to power 100,000 automobiles for a year. 26,000,000,000 also means that at least 2,550,000 tons of carbon dioxide were emitted on top of other pollutants. Oh, and by the way, bottled water is not safer than tap water. You should read this article from the good folks at Food&WaterWatch.

Alternatives: tap water, use a filter, as shown here, here and here. Are you going for a hike (sans Sanford) or going to the beach? Try the following links (I have no interest in any of these products, merely pointing out where you can purchase your eco-friendly bottle): Sigg.USA, Klean Canteen and Multi Pure bottles, H2EcO and quite a few more if you use the Google.

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Yes, a lot of these plastic bottles end up in our oceans, rivers and waterways. Across the pond Dutch scientists have found that more than nine out of 10 European fulmars (seabirds that eat at sea) die with plastic rubbish in their stomachs. A study of 560 fulmars from eight countries revealed they had ingested an average of 44 plastic items. The stomach of one fulmar that died in Belgium contained 1,603 separate scraps of plastic.

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Birds are not the only ones to suffer. Turtles, whales, seals and sea lions have all eaten plastic. I rest my case.

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Scary water statistics:

The world’s population is growing by about 80 million people a year, implying increased freshwater demand of about 64 billion cubic metres a year.

An estimated 90% of the 3 billion people who are expected to be added to the population by 2050 will be in developing countries, many in regions where the current population does not have sustainable access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

Most population growth will occur in developing countries, mainly in regions that are already in water stress and in areas with limited access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities let alone bottled water.

More than 60% of the world’s population growth between 2008 and 2100 will be in sub-Saharan Africa (32%) and South Asia (30%). Together, these regions are expected to account for half of world population in 2100.

By 2050, 22% of the world’s population is expected to be 60 years old or older, up from 10% in 2005. At the same time, nearly half the world population is under the age of 25.

Natural resource needs, including freshwater is expected to increase due to longer life expectances and globalization of trade and advertising tempting more consumption by young people in developed and developing countries. This is bad news for the environment as more and more people will turn to bottled water.

The urban population is expected to double between 2000 and 2030 in Africa and Asia. By 2030 the towns and cities of the developing world will make up an estimated 81% of urban humanity.

By 2030 the number of urban dwellers is expected to be about 1.8 billion more than in 2005 and to constitute about 60% of the world’s population.

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