Monday, October 17, 2011

Brainless Bottling

When I go to the sink and turn on the faucet, water comes out. How about that? How often do we actually think about that? Imagine if one day no water flowed out. What would you do?

Everyone and everything needs water on this planet, and no, I’m not talking about bottled water. Some of you may be surprised to know that few things ruffle my feathers more than bottled water. It is one of the most asinine things on the planet. Why am I so irked by this, you ask? If you really want to know the answer, then please read on. If you would rather go on living like we live on a planet with unlimited resources, then go back to your facebook and tell everyone what you ate for lunch today…

First, lets talk about the plastic used for bottled water. Many of you may or may not know that plastics are made from petrol products; in other words, they are made with oil. I have done some research on this, and I found that 17 million barrels of oil are used in the production of water bottles yearly; that is enough oil to fuel 1 million cars for a year. If you imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil, that's about how much oil was needed to produce that bottle. On top of that, we use roughly 18 million barrels of oil every year simply to TRANSPORT bottled water to various grocery and convenience stores. That’s 35 million barrels of oil every year for the production and transportation of bottled water. Since there are 42 gallons of oil in each barrel, that equates to almost 1.5 billion gallons of oil.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You are thinking, “But don’t we reuse this plastic by recycling it?” The answer is yes, but only to a small degree. It turns out that only 1 in 5 plastic water bottles are recycled; the other 4 end up in landfills or in our oceans. You’d like an illustration? Ok…

There are around 3 billion pounds of unrecycled water bottles around the world. An empty Boeing 747 weighs around 600,000 pounds. If you had a giant scale with all of the unrecycled water bottles on one side, you would need 5,000 Boeing 747s on the other side to even the scale out. That’s a lot of jets… and a lot of water bottles.

While I am on the topic of the bottles, lets talk about the harmful qualities they can have on the people who drink from them. Some water bottles, especially the big 5-gallon jugs used in offices and things like that, contain a chemical called BPA. I heard a scientist say that BPA may be one of the most potent toxins known to man, and we are drinking from containers made with it. BPA has been linked to all sorts of lovely things such as breast and prostate cancer, obesity, and neurological issues.

Fortunately, most bottles are now using a chemical called PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) rather than BPA. However, this chemical is now showing signs that it is harmful as well. I hear people all the time say that they drink bottled water because then they KNOW that it is clean water, but if we insist on drinking the purest water we can get, then why do we insist on putting it in plastic bottles that have been shown to leach chemicals into the water?!? Yes, sodas are bottled in the same kind of plastic bottles, but if you are putting soda into your body, you probably aren’t worried about the chemicals from the bottles.

Okay, enough about the bottles… lets talk about the actual water being put into them. Some bottled water makers are actually bottling filtered tap water from city water systems, achieving the same result as any homeowner with an inexpensive home filter. One of Auqafina’s water sources is actually the Detroit River. The next time you buy a bottle of water (which hopefully there is no next time), take a look at the back of the label and see if you can find where it was bottled. I think all bottles will say where they are bottled, and some even print on the label that the water came from a municipal water source. If the water was bottled in the same state that you are purchasing it in, then that water—get this—DOES NOT HAVE TO BE REGULATED BY THE FDA!!! For example, a lot of people in Washington buy Costco’s Kirkland brand of water, and it is bottled in Washington. Since those bottles don’t leave the state, they are not considered federal, so the water doesn’t have to be monitored in the same way. That’s probably one of the reasons it is usually cheaper than other brands.

So should you pay a bit more for a bottle of water that is regulated by the FDA? Well, aside from spending money on something you can get for free, it still isn’t the best idea. In the entire FDA, how many people do you think are on the committee to regulate bottled water? Yep… you guessed it. One. One person is given the task of monitoring all the companies that bottle all of the water. Did I mention that this one person also wears other hats for the FDA? That means that this person doesn’t even devote all of their time to bottled water regulation, so there is essentially less than one person doing the regulating. Doesn’t that make you feel good as you gulp down your “pure” water? But, in all fairness, I don’t think the FDA really does anything anyway… don’t even get me started on beef, chicken, pesticides, Monsanto, etc…

Anyway, back to the purity of the water in the bottles. The water coming out of your tap is probably more closely monitored than the water being put into those plastic bottles. Federal law requires that annual testing of municipal water quality be made available to the public, but there is no such requirement for the bottled water industry. The fact is that the industry is largely self-regulated with little federal oversight. Numerous independent studies have been made on the purity of bottled water, and the findings are pretty gross… even for the big name brands. Some test showed the water had traces of disinfectants, carcinogens, and even fertilizer ingredients. Mmmm. Pure. Don’t be fooled by the pictures of mountains on the labels or the clever names like Poland Springs. Poland Springs is not bottled from a spring in Poland. It is owned by Nestle. Don’t even get me started on Nestle…

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of reasons not to buy and drink bottled water, but these are only a few. Not only is it a colossal waste of money (up to 10,000 times the cost of tap water), it is a waste of natural resources. If you truly don’t like the taste of your tap water, then buy a home filter and use a stainless steel bottle. It will save you money, it will cut down on plastic in the landfills, and it will save oil (don’t even get me started on oil…). Just remember that every time you purchase a bottle of water, you are placing a vote in favor of bottled water.

I encourage you all to research bottled water companies. Look up things like Suez, water privatization in 3rd world countries, Nestle in Michigan, companies pumping water during droughts, and nice things like that. Water is free, and corporations like Nestle, Coke and Pepsi are taking advantage of that by pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons a day out of local water supplies, then selling it back to the people they took it from. The rabbit hole is deep… probably deeper than the water supplies that the companies are draining… but not as deep as their pockets.

1 comment:

chalayn said...

I feel the same way, Eric, and I was feeling tense the whole time I read this blog. I assume you have watched "Tapped." Also, if you want more information to make you upset, you should read "The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Freshwater in the 21st Century." *Sigh*