Unless you've been living under a rock for the past two decades, it should come as no surprise that plastic water bottles aren't the best of drinking vessels. And yet, if all the water bottles produced in the US are accounted for, each of us is responsible for about 95 plastic disposable water bottles a year, according to statistics from National Geographic (that’s 29 billion water bottles a year). In terms of personal health and environmental impact, disposable water bottles fall at the bottom of the list of go-to drinking ware, far below glass and metal options.
10 Reasons to Ditch the Bottled Water, for Good
- Bottled Water Is More Expensive: Per gallon, bottled water is much more expensive than tap water, reports the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Bottled water can cost $2.50 a gallon, which is less than gasoline, but not by much!
- Tap Water May Be as Good: We may have been led to believe that bottled water is the healthiest choice, but 40% of bottled water starts off as… tap water. Depending on your location, your tap water is plenty good-for-you. The EPA's standards for tap water are actually more stringent than the FDA’s guidelines for bottled water. While BPA, a hazardous material used to make plastic bottles, has been regulated, it's possible that a new toxin, BPS, may be used in its place, so picking reusable helps you avoid chemicals.
- Resources Are Trashed: While plastic water bottles are typically recyclable, 88% of water bottles end up in landfills, contributing to our growing stock of permanent trash (including masses of trash in oceans).
- You Need Water to Make Bottles: Contributing to the cycle of waste, in order to produce our nearly 30 billion water bottles each year, the U.S. uses 2.7 million tons of plastic annually. To make that plastic, they use 46 million tons of water, reports the Safe Drinking Water Foundation. Excessive water use has a range of environmental consequences, including contributing to over 30 states anticipating drought in 2013. In fact, only 1% of all the water on Earth is available for human use, reports the EPA.
- Transportation Impacts the Environment: Your tap water flows from a relatively local source through reservoirs and pipes to your faucets. On the other hand, bottled water probably comes from a distant source, meaning valuable resources like gasoline are used up for transportation. Internationally, "nearly a quarter of all bottled water crosses national borders to reach consumers, transported by boat, train, and truck," reported the Earth Policy Institute (EPI).
- Disposal Produces Toxins: To dispose of trashed bottles, waste management facilities use incineration, which produces toxins like chlorine gas and ash laden with heavy metals, the EPI reports.
- Bottles Stick Around: When water bottles are buried underground or in a pile of trash, it takes up to 1,000 years for them to biodegrade. So what you throw out today will be around until May of 3013.
- They Use Oil to Make Bottles: To produce nearly 30 billion water bottles annually, manufacturers use 17 million barrels of crude oil, which is enough to fuel a million cars for an entire year, reports National Geographic.
- Bottled Water Isn’t Federally Certified: Although water is regulated to maintain consumer safety, neither the EPA nor FDA certifies bottled water, which means taste and quality can’t be guaranteed. It won’t hurt you, but it may not be any cleaner than tap water. Industry organizations such as the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) and NSF International do offer certifications that you may see on a water bottle, but not all brands have been certified or opt for the label, and none are federally certified.
- Americans Drink Too Much Bottled Water: In the U.S., we consume more bottled water than any other nation, which is a bit ironic considering we have a well-functioning and wide-reaching water system. Still, in 2004 Americans drank 26 billions liters of bottled water, the EPI reports. Which means that it's really, really time to ditch the disposable bottles.
The Bottom Line
While it's tempting to stock up on a flat of bottled water for a party, or even just for your family for a week, make the investment in reusable water bottles that your family can use for years. It may seem like a small contribution, but if everybody used a reusable water bottle, 26 billion water bottles could be saved from landfills annually. If you don't want to carry a water bottle around everywhere, designate one for home, work, the car. In the long run, you'll be saving money over disposable bottles and, while it'll be an adjustment, it will be worth it.
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