Water Bottle Crisis

The Truth: Water Bottles

Convenience: Purchasing a water bottle.

Setback: Health, expensive, destroying the environment, and did I mention health?

I have a big water vase I purchased from Bed, Bath & Beyond that is BPA free and has lasted me over a year now. I use a Brita filter that needs to be replaced every 3 months instead of bottled water. Not only does it save tons of money, it is better for you and the environment! Here are some quick facts about water bottles from EWG, 2011.


    • Every 27 hours Americans consume enough bottled water to circle the entire equator with plastic bottles stacked end to end.1
    • In just a single week, those bottles would stretch more than halfway to the moon — 155,400 miles.1
    • Between 2004 and 2009, U.S. consumption of bottled water increased by 24 percent. Bottled water sales have more than quadrupled in the last 20 years (BMC 2010).
    • The federal government does not mandate that bottled water be any safer than tap water – the chemical pollution standards are nearly identical (EWG 2008). In fact, bottled water is less regulated than tap water.
    • Close to half of all bottled water is sourced from municipal tap water (BMC 2010, Food and Water Watch 2010).
    • It takes an estimated 2,000 times more energy to produce bottled water than to produce an equivalent amount of tap water (Gleick 2009).
    • Bottled water production and transportation for the U.S. market consumes more than 30 million barrels of oil each year and produces as much carbon dioxide as 2 million cars (Gleick 2009).
    • Plastic water bottles are the fastest growing form of municipal solid waste in the United States. Each year more than 4 billion pounds of PET plastic bottles end up in landfills or as roadside litter (Corporate Accountability International 2010).
    • While plastic bottles can be recycled, the majority are not. Moreover, plastic never actually degrades; it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. In some parts of the ocean, plastic outweighs plankton by a six-to-one ratio (Moore 2001).
    • Bottled water has indirect economic costs. Disposing of plastic water bottle waste, for example, costs cities nationwide an estimated $70 million in landfill tipping fees each year (Corporate Accountability International 2010).

1 Calculation assumes the water fills 16.9 fluid ounce bottles, 8 inches in height. Calculation is based on 8.4 billion gallons of bottled water consumed annually in the U.S. (23 million gallons per day) (BMC 2010); and the Earth’s circumference at the equator, 24,901 miles.


BMC (Beverage Marketing Corporation). 2010. Bottled Water in the U.S.: 2010 Edition. Available:http://www.beveragemarketing.com

Corporate Accountability International. 2010. Getting States Off the Bottle, Second Edition. Available:http://www.stopcorporateabuse.org/GettingStatesOffTheBottle [accessed May 10 2010].

EWG (Environmental Working Group). 2008. Bottled Water Quality Investigation: 10 Major Brands, 38 Pollutants. Available: http://www.ewg.org/reports/bottledwater [accessed November 12 2010].

Food and Water Watch. 2010. Bottling Our Cities’ Tap Water. Available:http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/bottled/bottling-our-cities-tap-water/ [accessed September 21 2010].

Gleick PH, Cooley HS. 2009. Energy implications of bottled water. Environmental Research Letters. January-March 2009. Volume 4, Issue 1.

Moore CJ, Moore SL, Leecaster MK, Weisberg SB. 2001. A comparison of plastic and plankton in the North Pacific central gyre. Marine Pollution Bulletin 42: 1297-1300.

[This article was directly taken from http://www.ewg.org/bottled-water-2011-how-much-do-we-drink]


A few years ago, I remember watching “The Water Bottle Problem” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flTbLnn5w_0 — I would definitely check this out, short & sweet) in one of my classes at Cal Poly, and was curious to find out if anything similar had come out since and if the problem was getting better or worse…I found “The Story of Bottled Water” (2010) on YouTube, where they claim empty water bottles are being dumped in India.

I cannot rely on one source…this led me to spending hours investigating whether or not this claim was true.

It was actually quite difficult to find sufficient backing for this claim. However, I uncovered Pepsi has been exporting substantial amounts of waste to India where the “CA-Redemption” stamp has been found on the water bottles (http://multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/issues/1994/09/mm0994_06.html). Unfortunately, this article seems to have references from the 90’s and I could not find a publication date. As I continued my search, I did come across this interesting article by the EWG: http://www.ewg.org/reports/BottledWater/Bottled-Water-Quality-Investigation. If you’re interested about what’s in bottled water, you should definitely check this out. Since many of the search results led back to “The Story of Bottled Water” (which references EWG as well) I felt the claim may be inconclusive, but I am pretty sure it is true.

After a while, before calling it quits,  I came across one last article (http://ilovehyderabad.com/columns/columns-india-dumping-ground-of-the-millennium.html) stating not only is India a dumping ground for plastic from the U.S., but also used & toxic mercury along with other things.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch, 2004. I do not own this picture

I found this incredibly disheartening, yet not hard to believe. During my trip to India, I realized the growing problem of waste and pollution has grown since my last visit. There is garbage EVERYWHERE. Regardless of the garbage everywhere, I couldn’t allow myself to litter…which everyone found ridiculous because I would keep my trash with me until I found a trash can (which was rare). Moreover, I knew whoever emptied out that trash was throwing it out in the streets anyway, but I still couldn’t carelessly toss it on the ground. My cousin, who has lived there her whole life, explained how there is no hope for India and their garbage problem. I’ve been trying to figure out the root of the problem and I know for a fact 1. that the government is so corrupt (experienced first hand), and 2. the ever-prevalent garbage situation does not seem to be a priority in government’s agenda. Remember: this problem is not limited to India; it is WORLDWIDE!

Solution: Stop being lazy (I know it’s hard)! Pick up a reusable water bottle and a Brita–it will not only help the environment, but save you $$! In less than a month (considering you drink the appropriate amount of water), you will get your ROI!

Overtime, routine will become habit, I promise! 


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