More than ever in developed areas across the globe, we have access to safe and clean drinking water. Despite the majority of people having access to a clean source of water, there is a large economic and consumer demand for bottled water. Americans use approximately 50 billion plastic bottles a year of which 38 billion ends up in a landfill. 1 The majority of these bottles go into a landfill only to never decompose, contributing to greenhouse emissions at a greater rate.2
There is little evidence to show that bottled water outside of an emergency or natural disaster setting is needed. Therefore general every day usage of bottled water tends to be an unneeded environmental burden. A major reason for people choosing bottled water was a perception of better taste. There is very little quantitative research to back this belief which has been shown in double blind taste tests that people cannot tell the difference between the two.3 Secondly there's evidence to suggest most tap water is safer than bottled water in developed areas given it needs to be tested more frequently as well.4
Given that there are minimal differences in taste, much of people's perspectives come from a belief that it's cleaner or tastes better. While there has been a decrease in purchase of bottled water there is still much work to do as it pertains to people's perceptions and ideas behind their water and what happens to that bottle afterwards. This is especially important as it pertains to the active person's decision to not use bottled water if possible.
Recycling is Not the Solution
The green fence banning import of non-industrial plastics into China has diverted much of the recycling waste produced by industrial developed nations into landfills.5 We understand that without sufficient oxygen, organic material cannot decompose, this is worsened when you consider plastics will never decompose, only degrade.This degradation of plastics is a problem as these microplastics continue to accumulate in the waters contaminating our oceans and thereby impacting the marine life.6
Much of the seafood humans eat therefore contain microplastics which has negative physical affects on human health. In particular are studies on the affect on cancer, GI health and endocrinology defects.7 We will go over this more in detail in the next section.
Here is a Ted Talk short video going over the life cycle of a plastic bottle going from single use to trash and into our water systems: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6xlNyWPpB8
- Carry a reusable bottle to drink from filters available
- Invest in clean water system for the home
- While plastic bottled water is needed for emergency usage, it should be kept at emergency situations only.
- When purchasing ready mixed products, opt for a clear glass bottle over a plastic bottle if possible.
- Lastly for areas that do not have access to clean drinking water, the solution is not to turn to bottled water but to press policy makers to improve water way systems.
Berkey Water purification system has shown to be a water purifier which not only removes contaminants but can filter out viral, bacterial and metals from drinking water.8 Much of these results only come in the form of lab tests ordered by Berkey but there is evidence to show they go beyond the general water filtration of home filters and Brita.
Here's a TED talk going over how bottled water is an invention of capitalism.This continues to feed into the product machine system, again, solving water inequity comes down to pressing politicians who will push cleaner water agendas for all.
Think About While Watching:
Do you use single use bottled water when working out? What can you do to lessen their usage if you do.
Are you consuming extra powdered proteins? Do you purchase single use bottles or large tubs? While very few people need extra protein, one large tub gets more use than a single bottle of premixed drinks.
If you don't like the taste of your filtered water, have you looked into different brands of filtration systems?
What are your local policies and infrastructure for water treatment?
1 Ban the Bottle. Bottled water facts. Available at: http://www.banthebottle.net/bottled-water-facts. Accessed February 12, 2014.
2 North EJ, Halden RU. Plastics and environmental health: the road ahead. Rev Environ Health. 2013;28(1):1–8. doi:10.1515/reveh-2012-0030
3 Teillet, Eric, et al. “Consumer Perception And Preference Of Bottled And Tap Water.” Journal of Sensory Studies, vol. 25, no. 3, 2010, pp. 463–480., doi:10.1111/j.1745-459x.2010.00280.x.
5 Plastic waste in marine litter: action now and at the source.Velis CA