Bottled Water: Friend or Foe?

Bottled water, a disputable topic that leaves most of us guessing. At first glance, it just seems like a convenient and accessible innovation…but when we look a little closer, we see the truth behind these plastic wolves in sheep’s clothing. Many of us grow up drinking bottled water at social gatherings, work, and even in the comfort of our own home.  Initially, bottled water appeared to be the miraculous solution to end the fears of drinking tap water. Many companies used this fear to generate a demand for the bottled water industry. This increasing demand for bottled water led to the mass production and distribution of plastic. In fact, there are over 1,500 plastic bottles used in the U.S. every second.

Here are some mind-boggling facts about bottled water and how it affects both our environment and health:

#1. 68 billion plastic bottles are thrown out each year.

When added to the amount created by other sources of plastic pollution, over 6.4 billion tons of plastic are being dumped into the oceans every year. This has led to the creation of large oceanic wastelands, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which according to The Ocean Cleanup,  “covers an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France.”

#2. Plastic pollution harms marine ecosystems.

Over 100,000 animals are killed every year due to the unintentional consumption of plastic debris. Not only is this harmful for the ecosystems, but also poses a threat to humans. The plastic consumed by fish ends up being consumed by humans, thus intoxicating the bloodstream with harmful chemicals.

#3. Plastic bottles are hazardous to human health.

Plastic bottles contain many harmful chemicals that over time, seep into the water. For example, one I’m sure most of us are familiar with is BPA,  a chemical used to make plastic clear and sturdy. BPA has been linked to various forms of cancer, birth defects in children, and early puberty for girls.  Plastic bottles also contain phthalates, which increases their flexibility. This chemical has been known to have many reproductive and developments effects as well.

#4. Tap water has stricter regulations than bottled water.

Tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which requires local communities to generate annual water quality reports. This report indicates the source of the water, potentially harmful contaminants, and treatment processes. Both the EPA and local residents have access to such reports. On the contrary, bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Bottled water companies are not required to disclose any information on the water source, levels of contaminants, and processes.

#5. Bottled water costs 2,000 times more than tap water.

This is equivalent to paying $10,000 for a sandwich. An average family in the U.S spends $100 per person/per year on plastic water bottles. A family of 4 could save $400 annually by switching to tap water.

Of course, none of us are perfect and certain situations and emergencies may call for the use of plastic bottles, but if we can make a conscious effort to reduce our plastic consumption every day, we can make a greater impact on the world around us.

As the former chief scientific adviser of the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, David MacKay noted, “If everyone does a little, we’ll only achieve a little. We must do a lot.”

Here are some easy ways you can make a difference in your daily life and community while helping combat the plastic crusade of the millennium:

  1. Switch to reusable water bottles, produce bags, utensils, and food containers, etc. Something as simple as using reusable alternatives to plastic can reduce our carbon footprint tenfold!
  2. Try a water filter for your home and switch to tap water. Not only will the environment thank you, but so will your wallet.
  3. Recycle the plastic you use. Nobody’s perfect, but being conscious of the plastic we consume and how we dispose of it can make all the difference.

Sources:

https://www.greensheepwater.com/plastic-problems

https://storyofstuff.org/wp-content/uploads/movies/scripts/SoBottledWater_Annotated_Script.pdf

https://www.theoceancleanup.com/great-pacific-garbage-patch/

Further Reading

http://oceancrusaders.org/plastic-crusades/plastic-statistics/

https://get-green-now.com/tap-vs-bottled-water-comparison

https://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/whats-the-problem-with-plastic-bottles/