Last week, our Executive Director, Juliana Gonzalez, participated in a panel following a powerful film showing. The documentary featured was Tapped, an in-depth look into bottled water. During our recent Coastal Cleanup Day, volunteers found massive amounts of plastic and countless bottles on the shorelines. Needless to say, plastic water bottles are on my mind, and the truth about them is rather shocking.
Sipping water from a plastic bottle likely instills a feeling of well- being, as if we were making a conscious decision to nourish our bodies. Bottled water has become a cultural phenomenon for our convenience as well as our health, so we think. It has also led to a billion dollar industry. We are made to believe that bottled water is of the purest form, but what exactly are we consuming?
Plastic bottles are produced from crude oil, and we likely consume remnants of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) when drinking out of plastic. Bottled water is comprised of 44% municipal tap water that has undergone further purification and 56% spring water that is derived from underwater springs. While these may sound like uncontaminated sources, test regulations are lacking. Of all the water bottles purchased, 60-70% is produced within state lines. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only regulates interstate commerce, so regulation responsibilities fall to the bottled water producers, who are free to use their own sources. We may underestimate the process that makes tap water safe. In reality, tap water undergoes a rigorous regulation process where it is constantly tested throughout the day, hundreds of times a month. Every city is required by law to make reports available to the public.
The cost of bottled water takes a higher toll on our wallets than we realize. For the consumer, a gallon of water costs more than a gallon of gasoline, while it only takes companies 6-8 cents per gallon for production. The companies that have accumulated billions of dollars by exploiting our natural resources price bottled water at a staggering 1900 times more than municipal tap water. As stated previously, we know that the disparity in regulation between tap and bottled water varies greatly, so why do we continue to consume bottled water?
If we keep with this trend, we will also contribute to the detriment of our environment. The quantity of water used to produce a plastic bottle can be up to three times higher than the actual amount in the bottle. Not to mention, manufacturing bottles uses 714 million gallons of oil every year. That’s enough to fuel 100,000 cars! You may be thinking to yourself, “but at least plastic bottles are recyclable.” Though this is true, only 27% of bottles are actually recycled and 35 billion, yes billion, bottles end up in the trash. We assume that trash will end up in landfills, yet 40% of our ocean’s surface suffers pollution, and 90% of that is plastic. This contributes to starvation and suffocation in animals that mistake trash for food.
If we committed to drinking local water, we could work to reduce our water footprint instead of being the largest consumer of bottled water. To learn more about ways to reduce your water footprint, take a look at this comprehensive infographic created by Wheels for Wishes, and share widely with your friends and families!