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Buy, Grab, Drink, Trash: Environmental Implications of Bottled Water

18 June 2012

Buy, grab, drink, trash. This is the life of one bottle of water after a consumer gets their hands on it. Imagine doing that seven days a week, every week for one year. The trash pile that would accrue from this habit would probably fill your entire house. The United States consumes about 50 billion bottles of water each year. 30 billion of those bottles are thrown out. While consumers drink up, landfills over flow. The accumulation of empty bottles in landfills, oceans, highways, streets and fields is a terror to the environment.

The trash created from plastic bottles is immense and not only does it take up a large portion of landfills, it also can take almost 1000 years to disintegrate. What doesn’t make it into landfills or recycling facilities is tossed out as litter. Currently the Pacific Ocean has a garbage patch estimated to be two times larger than Texas. The patch is made up of everything under the sun and 90 percent of it is plastic. This patch grows on a daily basis, adding new unnatural elements to the ocean and victimizing marine life. The garbage patch is slowly killing off the animals that used to call that area of the ocean home. Sea turtles, jellyfish, sharks, fish, dolphins and whales are all suffering.

Not only does the trash created by plastic bottles endanger the environment, but they also directly endanger our Imagehealth. Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical in plastics. When you ingest BPA, it acts as an estrogen and endocrine-disruptor making BPA a dangerous chemical if over-consumed. You would most likely not be able to consume enough BPA from your own plastic water bottle to cause harm. However, as plastic water bottles accumulate as garbage, BPA can leach into the natural water supply.

Most plastic bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate, PET. PET is made from crude oil and creates toxic emissions at a rate 100 times that of glass. 17 million barrels of oil are used each year to produce bottled water, which is enough to fuel one million cars for a year. It also takes hundreds of gallons of oil to transport and cool the bottles. Emissions like these are at the forefront of the world’s current environmental crisis. Plastic bottles cause massive amounts of carbon dioxide to be poured into the earth’s atmosphere every single day. Supporting the bottled water industry is costing the environment its life.

Do you know where bottled water comes from?

Some bottled water companies say their water is purified and from “natural springs.” They want you to believe drinking bottled water is healthier for you and more natural. The truth is, most bottled water actually comes straight from the tap. If it’s not from the tap, it’s taken from wells, lakes and wetlands. Large companies with means to extract water move in and take what they want from natural water sources. Once the water has run dry or almost dry, the company moves on to the next town leaving consumers and farmers with shortages. Companies then sell that water at steep price to gain profit. They charge almost 10,000 times the cost of tap water. This ultimately damages the environment, leaving no water for wildlife and residents and also runs your bank account dry.

How you can help.

End your involvement with bottled water. Buying bottled water only makes bottled water companies happier and more powerful. Supporting the bottled water industry is supporting the destruction of the environment. It may be more convenient to grab a cold bottle of water from your fridge and go, but there are plenty of other options. Having a reusable water bottle is a great way to get clean, fresh water and help keep the environment clean.

What about recycling?

Nearly 90 percent of water bottles are not recycled and wind up in landfills where it takes thousands of years to decompose. You may recycle at home, but there are millions of people who don’t think twice about what they throw in the trash. More than 80 percent of U.S. households have some type of access to a recycling program, but very little of that 80 percent really recycles. Less than one percent of all plastics used in the U.S. are actually recycled. Most people who are on-the-go toss their empty bottle into a trash bin because there is no recycle bin around. Eliminating water bottles from your daily routine will help keep the world clean.

Should I just drink tap water?

If your only choices are bottled water or tap water, you may feel trapped between unhealthy tap water and environmentally toxic bottled water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for tap water are more stringent than the Food and Drug Administration’s standards for bottled water. That doesn’t necessarily mean drinking tap water is just as safe or safer than bottled water. The quality of your tap water depends on many factors and is not consistent across the U.S. Our system eliminates the plastic, purifies the municipal water and restores confidence in drinking water.

Before buying bottled water, consider the effects of your purchase. Bottled water has many unnerving environmental implications that only lead to a destructive end.

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By Carolyn Wall, GreenBizCheck