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[GreenYes] Re: Earth Policy News - Bottled Water: Pouring Resources Down the Drain

In addition to convenience, I think that fear has a lot to do with the success of bottled water. Who wants to use a grungy drinking fountain when they can carry their own guaranteed safe water bottle? People are convinced that they will get sick if they drink tap water and too busy to stop and drink at a fountain.

Having your own sterile, safe water with you at all times has taken on a certain status as well. I have seen speakers step up to the podium with an 8-ounce bottle of water and sip at it daintily without consuming it during a 15 minute talk.

Personally, I'd be ashamed to let people know that I was unable to speak for 15 minutes without wetting my lips. I carry my own water with me in a used glass peanut jar these days and am proud to be out of step with those who need the convenience, safety and status of bottled water.

And yes, I believe the elimination of the bottled water industry is possible should the general public come to their senses.


Mark Snyder <snyde043@no.address> wrote:
This is all well and good, but the impression I get from this release is that this organization would like to do away with the bottled-water industry because they consider it to be so wasteful. Does anyone actually see that happening?

I think the key issue that is overlooked is that, like bottled sodas or juices, one of the main reasons people buy bottled water is the convenience factor. I think that's a much bigger issue that needs to be addressed than any perception of bottled water being "healthier" than tap water. The release does nothing to address that.

If the Earth Policy Institute wants to actually make a difference, a better approach would probably be to partner with a distributor such as or a manufacturer such as SIGG or Nalgene to promote greater use of reusable bottles. All this release does is complain a lot without offering any solutions or opportunities to make changes, which means for the most part, it will be ignored.

Mark Snyder
Minneapolis, MN

On 2/3/06, Pat Franklin <pfranklin@no.address> wrote:
Fyi in case you haven't already seen this.

Eco-Economy Update 2006-1
For Immediate Release
February 2, 2006


By Emily Arnold

The global consumption of bottled water reached 154 billion liters (41
billion gallons) in 2004, up 57 percent from the 98 billion liters
consumed five years earlier. Even in areas where tap water is safe to
drink, demand for bottled water is increasing?producing unnecessary
garbage and consuming vast quantities of energy. Although in the
industrial world bottled water is often no healthier than tap water, it
can cost up to 10,000 times more. At as much as $2.50 per liter ($10 per
gallon), bottled water costs more than gasoline.

The United States is the world's leading consumer of bottled water, with
Americans drinking 26 billion liters in 2004, or approximately one 8-ounce
glass per person every day. Mexico has the second highest consumption, at
18 billion liters. China and Brazil follow, at close to 12 billion liters
each. Ranking fifth and sixth in consumption are Italy and Germany, using
just over 10 billion liters of bottled water each. (See data at

Italians drink the most bottled water per person, at nearly 184 liters in
2004?more than two glasses a day. Mexico and the United Arab Emirates
consume 169 and 164 liters per person. Belgium and France follow close
behind, with per capita consumption near 145 liters annually. Spain ranks
sixth, at 137 liters each year.

Some of the largest increases in bottled water consumption have occurred
in developing countries. Of the top 15 per capita consumers of bottled
water, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Mexico have the fastest
growth rates, with consumption per person increasing by 44?50 percent
between 1999 and 2004. While per capita rates in India and China are not
as high, total consumption in these populous countries has risen
swiftly?tripling in India and more than doubling in China in that
five-year period. And there is great potential for further growth. If
everyone in China drank 100 8-ounce glasses of bottled water a year
(slightly more than one fourth the amount consumed by the average American
in 2004), China would go through some 31 billion liters of bottled water,
quickly becoming the world's leading consumer.

In contrast to tap water, which is distributed through an energy-efficient
infrastructure, transporting bottled water long distances involves burning
massive quantities of fossil fuels. Nearly a quarter of all bottled water
crosses national borders to reach consumers, transported by boat, train,
and truck. In 2004, for example, Nord Water of Finland bottled and shipped
1.4 million bottles of Finnish tap water 4,300 kilometers (2,700 miles)
from its bottling plant in Helsinki to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia can afford to import the water it needs, but bottled water is
not just sold to water-scarce countries. While some 94 percent of the
bottled water sold in the United States is produced domestically,
Americans also import water shipped some 9,000 kilometers from Fiji and
other faraway places to satisfy the demand for chic and exotic bottled

Fossil fuels are also used in the packaging of water. The most commonly
used plastic for making water bottles is polyethylene terephthalate (PET),
which is derived from crude oil. Making bottles to meet Americans' demand
for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually,
enough to fuel some 100,000 U.S. cars for a year. Worldwide, some 2.7
million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year.

After the water has been consumed, the plastic bottle must be disposed of.
According to the Container Recycling Institute, 86 percent of plastic
water bottles used in the United States become garbage or litter.
Incinerating used bottles produces toxic byproducts such as chlorine gas
and ash containing heavy metals. Buried water bottles can take up to 1,000
years to biodegrade. Almost 40 percent of the PET bottles that were
deposited for recycling in the United States in 2004 were actually
exported, sometimes to as far away as China?adding to the resources used
by this product.

In addition to the strains bottled water puts on our ecosystem through its
production and transport, the rapid growth in this industry means that
water extraction is concentrated in communities where bottling plants are
located. In India, for example, water extraction by Coca-Cola for Dasani
bottled water and other drinks has caused water shortages for over 50
villages. Similar problems have been reported in Texas and in the Great
Lakes region of North America, where farmers, fishers, and others who
depend on water for their livelihoods are suffering from concentrated
water extraction as water tables drop quickly.

Studies show that consumers associate bottled water with healthy living.
But bottled water is not guaranteed to be any healthier than tap water. In
fact, roughly 40 percent of bottled water begins as tap water; often the
only difference is added minerals that have no marked health benefit. The
French Senate even advises people who drink bottled mineral water to
change brands frequently because the added minerals are helpful in small
amounts but may be dangerous in higher doses.

The French Senate also noted that small, localized problems with tap water
can cause a widespread loss of confidence in municipal supplies. In fact,
in a number of places, including Europe and the United States, there are
more regulations governing the quality of tap water than bottled water.
U.S. water quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency
for tap water, for instance, are more stringent than the Food and Drug
Administration's standards for bottled water.

There is no question that clean, affordable drinking water is essential
to the health of our global community. But bottled water is not the answer
in the developed world, nor does it solve problems for the 1.1 billion
people who lack a secure water supply. Improving and expanding existing
water treatment and sanitation systems is more likely to provide safe and
sustainable sources of water over the long term. In villages, rainwater
harvesting and digging new wells can create more affordable sources of

The United Nations Millennium Development Goal for environmental
sustainability calls for halving the proportion of people lacking
sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015. Meeting this goal would
require doubling the $15 billion a year that the world currently spends on
water supply and sanitation. While this amount may seem large, it pales in
comparison to the estimated $100 billion spent each year on bottled water.

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