Over half of the inhabitants of Fiji do not have access to clean drinking water, yet the Fiji factory makes about a million bottles a day to be purchased in other countries for a premium price. 1/6th of the world’s population doesn’t have clean water to drink. Thousands of people die every day from diseases contracted from tainted drinking water. The corporations that make billions of dollars every year from selling bottled water want us to think it’s a healthy choice, and better than tap water (or other municipal sources). The truth is, it’s incredibly expensive, not to mention unhealthy for us, and terrible for our environment.
Last week, I received a brochure from my city’s water department detailing the quality of the municipal water in my area. You’ll never get a similar report from the bottled water companies. Municipal water is inspected frequently by the EPA and must meet its standards. Bottled water is controlled by the FDA, but most is not transported between states, which exempts it from FDA regulation. Even when it is, the testing is less rigorous and the standards are not as high as for tap water. For more information, check the startling charts on the NDRC’s site, including EPA tap water/FDA bottled water rules, comparison of standards, and monitored contaminants.
It seems there is a large choice when you see the varieties of bottled water offered for sale, but the truth is that Pepsi, Coke, and Nestle own more than half of them (including the largest 2, Aquafina and Dasani, which are nothing more than purified municipal water). At least those 2 save oil, they start as municipal water and don’t need to be transported far. Half of the wholesale cost of bottled water that must be transported, like spring water, is spent on transportation. It takes millions of gallons of oil every year to make plastic bottles, and even more oil to transport bottled water. Water is so heavy, you cannot fill an 18-wheeler truck with it, you must leave empty space.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used to make plastic bottles that has been shown to harm reproductive development in animals. In humans, it has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, chemotherapy resistance, and a whole wealth of other problems. A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health showed a 2/3 increase in BPA found in subject urine that used plastic bottles for a week. They used cold drinks; if the plastic bottle is heated the amount of BPA is higher. This does not only apply to disposable containers, but some baby bottles and other polycarbonate products.
Buying bottled water is like throwing away your money. Actually it’s worse than throwing away your money, you’re giving it to huge corporations. Water is extremely cheap. Most of the money you pay for a bottle of water goes toward paying for the bottle. Municipal water like tap or well costs, at the most, a few cents per gallon. Assuming you get a 20oz bottle of water at the vending machine for $1, that’s 5 cents per ounce, or $6.40/gallon. Where I live, gas is pretty expensive, but bottled water is 3 times the cost of gas here. The companies don’t have to spend very much on advertising, either. Water practically sells itself, especially if you make it seem healthier than tap water. The bottled water industry is about half the size of the soda industry, but the advertising budget is only 15% of what they spend to market soda.
The bottles are recyclable, but most of them are thrown out. Plastic has a very slow rate of decay, and bottled water alone (not including sodas and other drinks) account for 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. I can’t deny that bottled water is convenient. It’s there, it’s ready, you can just grab it and go. But is using a refillable container all that much of an inconvenience? My advice is buy a water filter and buy a stainless steel thermos. You can save money, help the environment, and it’s better for your health.
Message in a Bottle
Natural Resources Defense Council’s Bottled Water Information
Five Reasons Not to Drink Bottled Water
Plastic Bottle Facts Make You Think Before You Drink
Thirst: A Documentary on the Corporatization of Water