Friday, July 20, 2007

All Your Bottles Are Belong to Earth

Are you a bottled water drinker? Some food for thought:

  • The picture above, found at whatisleft.org and created by David Coale of Acterra, is a representation of the amount of oil required to ship a bottle of water from its source to the Bay Area of California.

  • Roughly 1.5 million tons of plastic are expended in the bottling of 89 billion liters of water each year.*

  • The United States is the world’s leading consumer of bottled water, with Americans drinking 26 billion liters in 2004, or approximately one 8-ounce glass per person every day.** This in spite of the fact that the U.S. has some of the world's safest tap water.

  • The most commonly used plastic for making water bottles is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is derived from crude oil. Making bottles to meet Americans’ demand for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel some 100,000 U.S. cars for a year. Worldwide, some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year.**

  • According to the Container Recycling Institute, 86 percent of plastic water bottles used in the United States become garbage or litter. Incinerating used bottles produces toxic byproducts such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals. Buried water bottles can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade. Almost 40 percent of the PET bottles that were deposited for recycling in the United States in 2004 were actually exported, sometimes to as far away as China—adding to the resources used by this product.**

  • We're moving 1 billion bottles of water around a week in ships, trains, and trucks in the United States alone. That's a weekly convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheelers delivering water. (Water weighs 81/3 pounds a gallon. It's so heavy you can't fill an 18-wheeler with bottled water--you have to leave empty space.)***

  • In Fiji, a state-of-the-art factory spins out more than a million bottles a day of the hippest bottled water on the U.S. market today, while more than half the people in Fiji do not have safe, reliable drinking water.***

  • Bottled water is much less regulated than tap water. As a matter of fact, most bottled water is tap water. Some has been filtered for purity, some has simply had minerals added for taste, and others are straight from the tap.

  • Bottled water companies are not required to reveal their filtration and/or purification processes on the label. So you simply don't know what's in that water. And just because it says "Spring Water" doesn't mean it's clean spring water.

  • Ounce for ounce, bottled water costs more than gasoline. Depending on the brand, it costs 250 to 10,000 times more than tap water.****

  • If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, which costs about $1.35, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with tap water before that water would cost $1.35.***

About eight months ago we put faucet-mounted filtration systems in our kitchen, and upstairs near the bedrooms. The systems cost about $30 each. We replace the filters, which cost about $10 each, every two to three months downstairs and every three to four months upstairs.

We've saved a shitload of money. We now have filtered water for everything we consume -- not just drinking, but cooking too. We're not lugging cased of bottled water from the store anymore. Our house isn't cluttered with plastic bottled anymore. And we're no longer contributing to all the waste and pollution caused by the bottles.


*According to a 2001 report of the World Wide Fund for Nature.
**From the article "Bottled Water: Pouring Resources Down the Drain," published by the Earth Policy Institute.
***From the Fast Company article "Message in a Bottle".
****From the NYT article "Bad to the Last Drop," by Tom Standage.

35 comments:

venessa said...

We do the same. We only buy bottled water for vacations. It's just not something I want to spend my money on.

PJ said...

I always wonder if people who buy Aquafina and Dasani, and are seduced by the pretty, Earth-friendly labels that makes them look like natural spring water, realize they're drinking water from Detroit, Philadelphia, or other big cities.

Yep. Tis true.

And people who buy Ice Mountain are drinking groundwater from western Michigan ... no mountains anywhere to be seen.

Jenna said...

We only buy bottled water for John to keep on his work truck, since he doesn't always have access to to a faucet.

Jeff said...

Jenna, while the research is still more in its infancy, there's lots to suggest that allowing disposable plastic water bottles to get hot can cause leaching of carcinogens into the water. The plastic used in those bottles is extremely low-grade and breaks down at a much lower temperature than, say, a polycarbonate Nalgene-type reusable bottle. If his truck gets hot during the day, he may want to think about at least putting the bottles in a cooler, if not buying some high-quality reusable bottles and filling them at home.

Jeff said...

PJ, to be fair, Dasani and Aquafina are actually two of the better-quality bottled waters out there because of the filtration and purification systems they use. That still leaves the questions of environmental impact and cost on the table, but it is good, healthy water (unless you let it get too hot -- see my response to Jenna above).

Lucyp said...

I try to never buy bottled water, especially after Dasani's practise of taking tap water, blowing bubbles through it and selling it for an extoriniate amount was exposed here a few years back.
Much cheaper to do it yourself with a straw if you want bubbles blown through it.

DangerDoll said...

Well you GO, proud eco-warrior!

But what grosses me out is when people try to save money by keeping the bottle and refilling it multiple times. Eeeww! You know how much bacteria's in there?

PJ said...

Oh I'm not doubting that Aquafina and Dasani are high-quality waters; I've heard that before, I think maybe from you. I just get a chuckle out of the mountain stream visuals on bottled water labels when I know it comes from Detroit.

As for you Ms. DD, I'm afraid I'm going to gross you out because I wash the bottles, fill them with tap water, and keep them in the fridge. It's not to save money, it's because our water is very good here but I like it really cold. Also, it's convenient to just reach in and grab a bottle.

But yes Jeff, I plan to get one of the purifiers because if I don't, you'll nag.

:-)

Jeff said...

Buy a reusable bottle, PJ. Stop refilling those cheap plastic ones!

Webmiztris said...

I wouldn't mind having one of those water filtration systems myself since pretty much all I drink is water all day and night. I buy gallons of distilled water, but it's a pain in the ass because I have to buy like 6 gallons at a time to last me until my next shopping trip because I drink so much of it. a water filtration system would certainly fix THAT problem.

Jane Doe said...

Yea, though I walk through the valley of germs, I will fear no microbes.

I've been refilling the same Poland Spring bottles for a year and I haven't gotten sick yet!

Signed,

Jane of the Cast Iron Immune System who hasn't had the Flu since 1995. Seriously.

PJ said...

Nag nag nag.

jennyjinx said...

I got a Brita filter and I'm absolutely spoiled. Love it, love it, love it.

Jodie K said...

Have a Brita filter pitcher but didn’t notice a great taste improvement from the tap. But I have given up bottles for those big jugs of distilled with the spout on the end. I also end up drinking loads more when it's right there in the fridge, nice and cold.

And YES!!! Give up the plastic for Nalgene. So much better for you.

Mark said...

DD - I refill those bottles from our tap filter all the time.

How long you wanna live, anyway???

PJ said...

I can read our obituaries now ...

Mark and PJ, two people who lived life to its fullest, died peacefully in their sleep on Friday in two separate states from the same cause: lethal plastic bottle syndrome (LPBS). In lieu of flowers, the families request that donations be made to the Ban Cheap Plastic Now, Dammit! foundation.

DangerDoll said...

the Ban Cheap Plastic Now, Dammit! foundation

Classic!

Ole Blue The Heretic said...

Houston water is just fine.

I do drink bottled water from time to time but I really never cared for it, I do not like drinking things out of plastic.

Jeff said...

"Have a Brita filter pitcher but didn’t notice a great taste improvement from the tap."

That's because the Brita pitcher filters out impurities but doesn't alter the taste at all. Same with the Brita faucet mount, I believe. Our faucet mounts are Pur, and they have a 3-stage filter that improves the taste. Interestingly enough, a recent study came out that ranked the quality of 100 American cities' tap water, and Denver's was #1 in the country. Of course, that's testing the water at the treatment facility. It still has to go through pipes in the ground and pipes in your house before it comes out of the tap, so shit can still get in there. That's why the home filtration systems are so nice.

Natsthename said...

It really is a good thing to do! I want the Pur brand, but can't get the filter for the kitchen faucet due to the design (it's a pull-out.) I must investigate whether or not Pur makes a pitcher type system.

We do have the water dispenser in the fridge, and it is filtered, but I hate the taste of the water. Tastes like..well...water from an RV sink.

Jeff said...

Hey Nat, Pur makes a pitcher.

PJ said...

Jeff's an expert on this topic on accounta he's researched it so much for his job. Don't get him started on dog food. :-)

Mark said...

PJ - You might as well start smoking again. I think I'll start drinking again.

Hell, if we're going to die from plastic bottle re-use why give up the stuff we really enjoy???

;o)>

PJ said...

Actually, I did have something weird happen that could be related to ingesting microscopic plastic fibers. I had what I thought was a wart growing on my left foot, but when I looked closer, I noticed it was shaped exactly like an Aquafina bottle.

Jodie K said...

Jeff, are you selling home filtration systems on the side???? ;)

PJ said...

Jodie, I keep waiting for him to post a 1-800 number. [grin]

Looney said...

Reducing PET bottle usage would temporarily lower the price of (virgin) APET, which would be great for me. Problem is, the price of RPET would then go up, driving up demand for APET and, well, whatever...

Our strawberry packaging is 85% RPET. We don't go 100% because you need some APET to maintain consitency in the product.

Interesting poast, dood. We have a built in filtration thingie in our fridge, so our bottle usage is down some 85% or so, accounting for the kids' lunches and such...

Mark said...

Hey, Looney - How do you get the pets in the bottles? And should we be calling PETA?

Teacake said...

Holy cow. I drink the water that comes out of the filter-thingie on the fridge door, but I know lots of peeps who prefer bottled. I had not thought about all this. I'll pass it on.

Looney said...

And I forgot to mention that RPET is often in short supply, forcing us to use more APET, which is a shame. So recycle people! Flood the RPET market!

:-)

Looney said...

Hey, Looney - How do you get the pets in the bottles? And should we be calling PETA?

:groan!: Ah, Mark, you should be writing jokes for Joan Rivers! :-)

Heath said...

There was a long interview with the Mayor of Salt Lake City, on NPR yesterday - he was talking about moving his city to tap water vs. bottled water.

One interesting thing he mentioned is that he went to a huge conference on the environment, and they trucked in bottled water from Norway for the event. Pretty sad.

I do buy bottled water, when I am in a place that tap water isn't available - but for the most part, I take those bottles and refill them at home with the good Sacramento tap water that we have, and re-use them over and over.

O' Tim said...

Heath - that was a good report, and NPR actually did another one on the lack of recycling facilities. Check it out

Jodie K said...

Posted to cnn.com this morning...how topical!

http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/07/27/pepsico.aquafina.reut/index.html

~Babsbitchin~ said...

It's just crazy, is it not? I would love to return to the age of innocence, my youth, where we just drank from the hose. We even shared the hose. OMG the germs!!