We have become obsessed with buying bottled water. Those in their forties and fifties will realize that this is a fairly recent thing. The first bottled waters, as we know them today, began to appear on our shelves in the later part of the twentieth century – up until then, most of us were happy with the stuff that we got out of the tap.
In America alone last year, consumers purchased some 50 billion plastic bottles of water. According to Ban the Bottle, the average US citizen goes through 167 of these a year. That’s around 1 every two days.
The problem is only 28% of these bottles ever get recycled. The rest are thrown away and wasted. They end up in landfill, get tossed into the surrounding environment and a sizeable proportion ends up in rivers and is carried out to sea.
Nothing demonstrates the ecological impact of the plastic bottles than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The circular currents in the Pacific combine to draw all kinds of waste, including plastic bottles, to its center where you end up with a huge, floating dump. It’s literally the biggest collection of in the world.
Why We Drink Bottled Water
In the Western world, we’ve been sold a big marketing con, according to many activists. Bottled water is supposed to be better for you and cleaner than tap water. In some instances, we’re told it comes from ‘healthy’ mineral spas and that it even has added benefits such as aiding exercise or improving concentration.
The truth is that bottled water is no more or less clean than the stuff many of us get from our own tap. In places like America, water supply is monitored very carefully by the Environmental Protection Agency – testing what we drink from the tap daily to make sure it is free of anything harmful.
The Impact of Bottled Water on the Environment
Plastic doesn’t degrade any time soon. When thrown away, it hangs around in the environment for hundreds and hundreds of years. When you consider that only a third of bottles are ever recycled, in the USA that means billions each year are ending up in places like landfill. And when we do put our bottles in the recycling, we don’t realize that many types can’t be processed and municipalities across the country simply throw them away.
Plastic bottles are made from petroleum – they contain potentially dangerous substances such as Bisphenol A or BPA which has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system in humans. Bottles thrown away that have found their way into our oceans have been consumed by wildlife. According to One Green Planet:
“A sperm whale was found dead on a North American beach recently with a plastic gallon bottle which had gummed up its small intestine. The animal’s body was full of plastic material including other plastic bottles, bottle caps and plastic bags.”
In some parts of the world, they’re starting to ban bottled water. A town in Australia, has done just this and introduced alternatives such as water fountains for its residents. In Germany, the government ensures that more bottles are recycled and incentives are provided to encourage consumers to buy water from manufacturers who produce recycled containers. Bottles that contain BPA have been banned in countries like Canada, France and Denmark.
There’s one simple and powerful way for us all to reduce the amount of garbage caused by bottled water.
Leave it on the shelf.
Rather than buying new water, carry your own bottle around and fill it up from the tap or drinking fountain. Your drinking water is safe and costs a lot less than buying a bottle from your local store.