Part II: Why Bottled Water is Bad for the Environment
Welcome to Part II of the series Bottled Water: Why It’s Bad for You, the Environment, and Water. In Part I I talked about why bottled water is bad for you, and now in Part II I’ll be talking about why bottled water is bad for the environment. There was a great response to Part I, and thank you to everyone that commented on it. If you missed Part I you can read it here. Now let’s get educated on why bottled water is bad for the environment.
- It Uses a lot of Oil: 17 million barrels of oil are used in the production of plastic water bottles per year IN THE US ONLY. This is enough oil to fuel 1 million cars for a year. When you take into consideration everything that goes into getting bottled water to market this number can jump as high as 54 million barrels.
- Tons of Waste: Only 1 out of 5 plastic water bottles are recycled contributing to the 3 billion pounds (1,500,000 tons) of plastic bottle waste per year (c’mon people. Who doesn’t recycle nowadays???). As a comparison, the Golden Gate Bridge here in San Francisco weighs 887,000 tons, so there’s almost 2x the weight of the bridge in plastic waste per year. Further, the PET 1 bottles cannot be cleaned properly and over time can leech plastic components into the water so it is not recommended that they be reused. Oh, and PET bottles never really biodegrade, and if they’re incinerated instead they release toxic fumes. Other types of plastics can biodegrade, but it takes anywhere from 450-1000 years.
- There are alternatives, the most popular being plastic made out of corn, but I have to ask; Is it really any better to use water to grow food to make bottles to put water into? Especially when there are so many hungry people in the world.
- Plastic is Killing the Ocean and its Inhabitants: Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (also called the Eastern Garbage Patch)? It’s a patch of trash in the Pacific Ocean that is about 2x the size of Texas (some say it may be as big as the US and be 100ft deep). The patch is made up mostly of plastics of various types and sizes since most of the other trash biodegrades or breaks up over time. This plastic pollutes the ocean as well as animals in the ocean. In 2009, researchers from Nihon University in Chiba, Japan, found that plastic in warm ocean water can degrade in as little as a year (not PET). Those small bits of plastic are toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and PS oligomer that end up in the guts of animals or wash up on shorelines, where humans are most likely to come into direct contact with the toxins. And guess what happens when animals eat plastic? They die. It has been estimated that over a million sea-birds and one hundred thousand marine mammals and sea turtles are killed each year by ingestion of plastics or entanglement according to Greenpeace. (sorry if I disgust anyone with the picture below, but it’s something that needs to be seen. See all those bottle tops? And I’m sure there are a bunch of little pieces of plastic we can’t make out)
- There’s also a Western Garbage Patch that floats around somewhere between Japan and Hawaii.
- Transporting to Market: Once you bottle and pack up all that water it needs to be transported, adding to pollution and global warming. When you think about where some of the water comes from, say Fiji water that comes from…wait for it…Fiji, and is then flown or shipped around the world you can start to see how much pollution can be attributed to bottled water transport.
- Just found this information on TreeHugger.com: “…let’s look at the trip to the US. The distance from Fiji to San Francisco is 8,700km. But this time the bottles will be full, so they will have a mass of 1.025kg each. This gives us a much larger value of 9.8tkm ( (1.025kg / 1t/1000kg) x 8,700km = 8.9tkm) which I will round up to 9tkm (tkm = that’s metric tons carried x distance traveled)). So, 81g of fossil fuels, 720g of water, and 153g of GHGs (greenhouse gas) per bottle delivered to the US from Fiji.”
- Tons of Carbon Dioxide: A 2006 Earth Policy Institute study found that the British bottled water industry annually generates about 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide, which equals the energy consumption of 6,000 homes a year. Guess what? The US drinks more bottled water, so our numbers are higher. Every ton of PET produces about 3 tons of carbon dioxide. So if we take the figure from before of 1,500,000 tons of plastic waste (and remember, this is just the waste and doesn’t include what’s recycled) that’s 4,500,000 tons of carbon dioxide. So that would equal the energy consumption of 900,000 homes.
- Uses a lot of Energy: According to the European plastics industry it takes 3.4 megajoules of energy to make a 1 liter plastic bottle. In 2011 in the US 9.1 billion gallons of bottled water was bought. 9.1 billion gallons equals approximately 34,447,247,234.4 liters, which means that about 117 billion megajoules were spent due to bottled water consumption in the US. What does this mean? I’m not sure, but it’s a lot. Can anyone explain how much energy this is in a way us normal folks can understand? But as a comparison, to get a liter of tap water you only need 0.005 megajoules.
- Litter Everywhere: I couldn’t find any figures on how much water bottle litter there is, but if you ever go outside of your house you know that there are empty water bottles everywhere; the streets, the beach, in the ocean, in your car from your stupid friends…
On the other hand tap water doesn’t use plastic, and therefore there is no waste or litter, it uses a fraction of the energy/oil and doesn’t have to be transported by plane, ship or truck and therefore only causes a fraction of the pollution that bottled water does, and, well, let’s just say “no animals were harmed in the making of this tap water”.
So what can you do? Put down the bottled water, buy a reusable bottle, a water filter if needed, and drink tap water. Doing this will save countless animals as well as having a positive impact on the environment. What else? Share this with everyone you know or talk to them about it. Most people are oblivious to this information and have no idea that bottled water is bad. Let them know.
Did I miss anything? If I did please let me know. Education is key, and if there’s something I don’t know about I always like to hear about it. As always, thanks for reading. Can’t wait to read your comments. Come back for Part III where I’ll be talking about why bottled water is bad for water.
The Ripple Effect – The Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty-First Century by Alex Prud’homme
35 thoughts on “Bottled Water: Why It’s Bad for You, the Environment, and Water – Part II”
While i agree with your views that bottled water is bad for the environment and presents a clear unsustainable policy of resource management, I live in a country where the public drinking water supplies are treated with fluorosilicates- chemicals that have never been tested for human safety or environmental toxicology and which contribute to exposing the population to the dangers of overexposure of fluorides in their diet. This has had personal consequences for my own health contributing to the development of chronic calcification in my ligaments resulting in severe tendonitotis. As I live in a geographic area where the water is very soft this further increasing the toxicity of fluorides and increasing the plasma fluoride levels in individuals. To address my medical condition it was necessary for me to remove fluoride from my diet as much as possible and for this I was forced to purchase non fluoridated spring water as the WHO recommend that deionized water is not suitable for drinking. After six years of chronic muscleoskeletal pain and spending a small fortune on medical consultants and prescription painkillers only by ceasing to drink or use fluoridated water did my condition improve. I am also an individual who due to being bottle fed fluoridated water as an infant have dental fluorosis a physical sign of chronic overexposure to fluoride in my infant years. So until my government stops artificially fluoridating my water supply (no other mainland EU country fluoridates public water supplies, due to health and the issue of compulsory medication of their populations) i am left sadly with no choice but to continue to use bottled spring water. I wish it was otherwise.
Hi Declan, have you tried getting a filter that will remove flouride from your water? There are a number of them on the market that you could find with a quick search on the internet.
Doesn’t the WHO also recommend fluoridated water? … Reverse osmosis will remove all contaminates and I don’t see a physiological reason why it would be unhealthy. Hopefully you are getting enough nutrients and minerals from your diet.
Thanks for your concern, but you may not know that fluoride is a metabolic inhibitor and enzymatic poison.The WHO have maintained this position in favour of water fluoridation based on a recommendation that before commencement of such a policy the total dietary intake of an individual must be known in particular for sensitive subgroups of of the population. The WHO promotes water fluoridation under the leadership of the U.S. Public Health Service. It is not a position accepted by any EU country apart from Ireland and parts of the UK. The U.S Academy of Sciences published their comprehensive review of fluoride in drinking water in 2006 and among its findings the entire panel of experts unanimously agreed that Fluoride can cause cancer and promote cancer as well as effect the functions of the thyroid.
The Russian academy of Sciences this year reported that Fluoride effects cellular calcium concentration, interferes with the body’s natural calcium stores and acts to suppress both the Ca2+-pump, or activation of Ca2+ channels in the body as well as interfere with functions of the brain, heart, kidney, liver, pineal gland and pancreas. Fluoride interferes with the bodies cellular antioxidant defence systems and stimulates lipid peroxidation (LPO).
Why should I have to have to intake calcium from drinking water when I eat enough from my diet ? IMHO, that’s like saying we have to drink cow’s milk to meet our daily calcium requirement, when there are many other sources of calcium available.
Large numbers of people avoid dairy products, they may be lactose intolerant for example. Such high-risk individuals should be the first to benefit from minerals provided via drinking-water or other means of supplementing mineral intakes. Also the bioavailability of calcium in increased when present in water compared to foodstuffs.
I understand this. I was just pointing out the contradiction for why you drink bottled water.
” I was forced to purchase non fluoridated spring water as the WHO recommend that deionized water is not suitable for drinking.”
I see, well I read their report on deionized water and its based on sound science and as a scientist I would not recommend to anyone that drinking de-ionized water is good for their health. Its a pity that they do no apply the same rigors of testing to fluoridated water, it is evident that they only ever look for benefits for dental health ignoring the more obvious whole body impacts. It is ironic dot you think that the WHO advise that drinking low calcium water is bad for your health but then recommend that fluoride should be added to water regardless of the calcium level, especially when fluoride directly interferes with and impacts on the bodies calcium metabolism. Where I live as in large parts of ireland the calcium level is very low 300ppm, yet both regions receive the same concentration of fluoride.
I see. Don’t know what happened there, it seems not to have posted my reply properly. I read their report on deionized water and its based on factual evidence, how can demineralised or deionized water be good for your health. As a scientist I would not recommend to anyone that drinking de-ionized water is good for their health. Its a pity that they do no apply the same rigors of testing to fluoridated water, it is evident that they only ever look for benefits for dental health ignoring the more obvious whole body impacts. It is ironic dot you think that the WHO advise that drinking low calcium water is bad for your health but then recommend that fluoride should be added to water regardless of the calcium level, especially when fluoride directly interferes with and impacts on the bodies calcium metabolism. Where I live as in large parts of ireland the calcium level is very low at less than 20ppm compared to other areas where it may be greater than 300ppm, yet both regions receive the same concentration of fluoride.
Have you tried using a water filter?
It is really horrible to read the article regarding the plastic water bottle that it produces so much carbon in the atmosphere and 3 billion pound of waste plastic bottle.Therefore it is essential to use reusable water bottle,water filter etc .awareness program must run at a larger scale so that the use may be stopped.Govt. must ban the use of plastic bottle in the railway,air travel etc.
Very very thought provoking article. We need to shun bottled water to save environment.
There is nothing I want more to stop hurting the animals and the planet. But I’m also live in a country where they put fluoride in our watter. I Wont drink that water. And as I read and investigated I saw that many of the fluoride filters are just a lie. And thats it all most Impossible to eliminate fluoride from water that it been added to
I’d be curious to know where you live? It’s unfortunate that you’re finding the filters don’t work as advertised. Which brands have you looked at? Just doing a quick search it looks like there is a lot of information about removing fluoride from water, and I think there are in fact ways to do it, but I am not a scientist, and you cant always trust what you read on the internet…
I found this article interesting https://www.dancingwithwater.com/articles/how-to-remove-fluoride-from-water/
I dont know your situation, but if you have to drink bottled water I would recommend using 5 gallon jugs and then filling your own bottle. The jugs are re-usable so it will help with the environmental problems. This wont, however, help with the problem of groundwater depletion. -Regards
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It’s a very good article. Need more on it. As WASH Specialist this will help me to capacitate my team. Thanks
If you’re looking for more information you can email me directly at email@example.com and I can try to help.
this is a good article, but I think you need to add more
What do you mean?
“Only 1 out of 5 plastic water bottles are recycled contributing to the 3 billion pounds of plastic bottle waster per year”
Is this nationally? or world wide?
This is world wide.
Thanks for reading
just install water purifier and avoid plastic bottle water if some wants water purifier send me email in UAE only firstname.lastname@example.org
I need your real name for my works cited page
You can just cite B.Luenow and HydrateLife. Thanks for reading.
the picture did it all
Maybe you would be better to try and get bottled water companies to switch to aluminum can, rather than trying to get people to stop buying bottled water. They have the Rockstar and Monster Energy drinks that have screw on caps…. Water in my area stinks, it`s brown most of the years, it`s full of flouride. I refuse to drink it out of a tap.
Aluminum is a good idea, but you still have the problem of all that aluminum waste.
That is unfortunate about your tap water. I wouldn’t drink it either. Not sure what you’re doing now, but I would suggest buying a filter instead of buying bottled water.
Thanks for reading!
I am all for filtering and reusing water containers. However, there is an issue that I have not yet seen addressed. That is what to do with the filters. Filters, as you know, remove impurities, including toxins- and concentrate them in the filter medium. When your filter needs replacing, where does it end up? Landfills are infamous for negatively affecting the ground water. This is why batteries are supposedly not deposited there. Everything is connected. Just saying, it could use some consideration.
how can i tell if this is professional
I’m not sure what you mean by “professional”
I’m sorry but I find a lot of the things you said in this website wrong. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of researching about this entire debate. I find it fascinating how people can just go back and forth about their thoughts and opinions. The reason I’m saying this is because your missing out on most of the key details. Like plastic water bottles are recyclable so you aren’t hurting the environment your saving it from needing to use more resources. Also tapped water doesn’t always mean that it’s filtered it just means straight out from the faucet which is also very unhealthy.
Thanks for the comment. True, plastic water bottles are recyclable, however, think of all of the fossil fuels that are burnt, and water used, in the production of the bottles. Bad for the environment. And plastic bottles are made from a process the uses oil. Bad for the environment. When you recycle a bottle there is also energy used to process them, which comes from fossil fuels. Bad for the environment. Plus, there are huge multi-national companies that are pumping out millions and millions of gallons of water from the ground, and making huge profits off of them, which often times leaving the communities in the surrounding areas without water.
Tap water in most places in the US is more strictly regulated then bottled water. Also, if you’re not comfortable with that you can get a filter to put on your faucet, or a pitcher style filter. Much less waste, less cost to you, and great drinking water.