The convenience of bottled water is a part of many people’s lives nowadays. The amount of bottled water sold in the U.S. in 2011, 9.1 billion gallons, translates to 29.2 gallons of bottled water for each American. Drinking bottled water is an expensive habit, as it is estimated that bottled water is 240 to 10,000 times more expensive than tap water. Drinking bottled water is also costlier on the environment and human health.
Most bottled water is packaged in plastic containers made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The chemicals from the PET bottles leach into the water. A Canadian study looked at 132 brands of bottled water from 28 countries in containers made from PET. What the Canadian researcher, William Shotyk, now of the University of Heidelberg, found is that the longer water sits in the bottles, the higher the concentration of chemicals like antimony, which is chemically similar to lead, is in the water. “It’s increasing over time because [the plastic] is leaching chemicals,” said Shotyk.
Bottled water companies are not required by law to disclose where they get their water from, and many don’t. The Environmental Working Group’s 2011 scorecard on bottled water found that among the nine best-selling brands, only one, Nestle’s Pure Life Purified Water, discloses the exact geographic source of its water and treatment method.
PET is made from fossil fuels (natural gas and petroleum), so making PET bottles to package water takes a heavy environmental toll. In 2006, Americans bought 31.2 million liters of water, most of which was sold in PET bottles, requiring almost 900,000 tons of plastic. The Pacific Institute estimated how much oil it took to produce enough PET bottles to package 31.2 million liters of water. Since it takes about 3.4 megajoules of energy to make a one-liter plastic bottle, cap and packaging, making enough for 31.2 liters of water required over 106 billion megajoules of energy. A barrel of oil contains about 6,000 megajoules, so an estimated 17 million barrels of oil was needed to make the plastic bottles. Since every ton of PET manufactured produces three tons of carbon, bottled water manufacturing in 2006 in the U.S. created over 2.5 million tons of carbon.
Now that you know about the health and environmental impacts of bottled water, ditch drinking it, and switch to reusable water bottles. Your body and the planet will thank you.
Photo Credit: djwaldow