Last week I watched the documentary Tapped, which taught me some disturbing things about the bottled water industry. I don’t normally drink bottled water (see reason #1), and after watching this documentary I don’t think you should either. I’m not alone in thinking this — communities around the country are starting to ban the sale of single-use bottled water. And in December, city supervisor David Chiu introduced a proposal to limit the sale of bottled water in San Francisco — making SF the first major city to tinker with a ban. Why all the fuss?:
1) Bottled water is expensive. Okay this is rather obvious, but why pay for bottled water when you can drink water from your tap that is virtually free? If you don’t like the flavor of your tap water, or you’re concerned about chlorine or metal contaminants, then filter it.
2) Tap water is safer to drink. Yes it’s true! Tap water is highly regulated and tested multiple times per day for safety. Bottled water is rarely, if ever, tested for safety (thanks Food and Drug Administration!). Oh, but here’s a silver lining: if you’re drinking Aquafina or Dasani water, it’s just filtered tap water, so those brands should be pretty safe.
3) The bottles may not be safe to drink from. The plastic bottles contain harmful chemicals, that may leach into your water if stored at warm temperatures. Drinking bottled water is a relatively new phenomenon, so we don’t really know the long-term safety effects (i.e. is there a link to cancer?)
4) Plastic water bottles are a waste of oil. The bottles themselves are made from oil, a non-renewable resource. It takes more than 17 million barrels of oil each year just to make enough bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water. That’s enough oil to 1.3 million cars for a year. Furthermore, the process of turning oil into plastic bottles releases toxic chemicals into the air and water around the manufacturing plants, causing health problems in individuals who live in those areas.
5) Plastic water bottles are killing our oceans. Americans are recycling plastic at an abysmal rate of 24 percent. So, when the average U.S. citizen uses 167 disposable water bottles per year, he only recycles 38 of them. The rest end up in landfills and tragically our lakes, rivers and oceans — where they take 500-1000 years to fully degrade. There’s a large floating plastic island twice the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean! Marine life and seabirds are frequently killed from eating or becoming entangled in plastic. Sad.
These are all good reasons to stop buying bottled water in and of themselves, but here’s another disturbing question. In an era of climate change and increased drought, do we trust large, profit-driven corporations to have such unregulated access to our water supply?
For further reading, check out these sources: