Very little in life is either all good or all bad. Take plastic water bottles, for instance. We hear the horror stories regarding BPA and see the images of over-stuffed landfills and could rightly assume that plastic water bottles are a scourge that need to be removed from our society.
But classifying plastic water bottles, or the bottled water industry, as just ‘good’ or ‘bad’ misses out on some of the subtleties behind this issue – and even some of the good that the growth in the bottled water industry represents.
Before you make your next bottled water purchase, or next time you find yourself taking sides in a plastic water bottle debate, ensure that you are armed with the good, bad and the ugly facts below:
The Good of Plastic Water Bottles:
Recent data indicates that the bottled water industry brings in nearly 12 billion dollars each year. Before we dig into whether or not this represents a good trend, let’s first acknowledge that if nothing else this indicates that Americans are on a water drinking kick. And considering some reports indicate up to 75% of Americans suffer from dehydration, and that our own First Lady had to schoolmarm up the airwaves to plead with us to drink more water, this can’t be a bad thing, right?
The Bad of Plastic Water Bottles:
In the Pacific Ocean is a trash vortex as big as the size of Texas. Much of this trash vortex is made up of plastics used in the manufacture of products like plastic water bottles. Some studies indicate that 10% of all plastic used will someday make it into our oceans. On top of this, 80% of plastic water bottles will end up in landfills where they will slowly degrade, releasing toxic chemicals along the way. This is about as far from good as you can possibly be.
The Ugly of Plastic Water Bottles:
As of 2009, one person at the FDA was in charge of bottled water oversight, per data cited by the bottled water documentary Tapped. That’s one person overseeing the safety of a multi-billion dollar industry. Tapped, and several other sources rightly report that most water used in plastic water bottles differs very little from the water pouring from your municipal source. The key difference, of course, is that bottling water exposes it to BPA, an industrial chemical used in plastics that may seep into food or beverages.
For those that are comfortable with the small risk posed by BPA or with the fact that the bottled water industry has a relative lack of oversight, there is one more ugly fact that is sure to trouble anyone: bottled water, by the gallon, is twice the cost of gasoline. Here’s the math:
20 oz bottle of water = $1.50.
One gallon = 128 ounces.
128 ounces = 6.4 bottles of water.
6.4 x $1.50 = $9.60.
If you are drinking one bottle of water from time to time, and you are responsible with your trash, you will likely experience only the good of bottled water. But if you are buying it consistently by the case, you could wind up spending thousands of dollars lifetime on a product no different, no safer – and potentially more harmful to your health and to our planet’s health when taken in large doses – than what you could get by turning on your tap.
If you are trying to break a bottled water habit, or at the very least trying to significantly cut back, here are some products that we would recommend. Note that making the switch to any of the products below will give you the great taste you are looking for from bottled water, provide you with a beverage with significantly fewer contaminants – and, of course – save you money in the long run:
1. Faucet Water Filtration Systems – manufactured by brands ranging from Culligan to Brita, a faucet filter will easily connect to most sinks and reduce up to 99% of contaminants that can cause water flavor issues. Simply turning on your faucet will give you the great tasting water that bottled water can only hope to achieve.
2. Water Filter Pitchers – While Brita may be the most popular, brands ranging from PUR to 3M offer water filter pitchers that give you the same great tasting water, virtually contaminant free, that is easy to chill to fridge temp.
3. Water Filter Bottles – most that buy bottled water will do so on the go, rather than at home. Water filter bottles from companies ranging from Brita to Klean Kanteen start at around $23 and will filter up to 99% of contaminants from 20 or more gallons of water. These things pay for themselves after just a few uses – and like their in-home counterparts, will give you great tasting, virtually contaminant free drinking water that bottled water manufacturers only wish they could promise.
The growth of the bottled water market means we are drinking more water as a culture. If we can just scale back our dependence on bottled water, and focus instead on just drinking water, we can take the good without the bad that comes along with it.
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