February 12, 2006

This Weekend’s Unanswered Question 3 (021206): On Bottled Water

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 11:45 am

QUESTION 3: Why hasn’t somebody made these points about bottled water before?

This story makes a lot of sense when compare what it takes to get bottled water into a person’s hands and disposing of the bottle, vs. just going to the tap for a drink. But I’m very surprised at some of the stats involved:

Bottled water, a natural resource taxing the world’s ecosystem

Arnold said although in the industrial world bottled water is often no healthier than tap water, it can end up costing 10,000 times more.

“At as much as 2.50 dollars per liter (10 dollars per gallon), bottled water costs more than gasoline,” the study says.

It added that the United States was the largest consumer of bottled water, with Americans drinking 26 billion liters in 2004, or about one eight-ounce (25 cl) glass per person every day.

….. That has translated into massive costs in packaging the water, usually in plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is derived from crude oil, and then transporting it by boat, train or on land.

“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 US cars for a year,” according to the study. “Worldwide, some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year.”

….. Once the water is consumed, disposing the plastic bottles poses an environmental risk.

The study, citing the Container Recycling Institute, said that 86 percent of plastic water bottles in the United States end up as garbage and those buried can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.

In addition, some 40 percent of the PET bottles deposited for recycling in the United States in 2004 ended up being shipped to China.

“….. roughly 40 percent of bottled water begins as tap water,” the study says. “Often the only difference is added minerals that have no marked health benefits.

Maybe those against the Iraq war should change their slogan to “No war for water bottles.”

The people who sell home water-filtering systems and the like just got a very big shot in the arm.

There’s a bigger point here that the second-last excerpted paragraph raises, which is that much of what we dutifully throw into the recycling container doesn’t get recycled here (as noted above), or doesn’t get recycled at all. E-mail me if you have any information or ideas on how to find out more about this dirty little secret.



  1. Why does it get shipped to China? Just to be landfilled there?

    Comment by JH — February 12, 2006 @ 2:36 pm

  2. #1, I don’t know. I would think it’s melted down and used again in some kind of production. The fact that it’s somehow economical to do that seems mind-boggling.

    Comment by TBlumer — February 12, 2006 @ 2:47 pm

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