Recycling Plastic Water Bottles

Water is essential to sustaining life. More and more people are switching to bottled water as a convenient source of water and an healthy alternative to other sugar laden drinks such as soda pop, juices, and other drinks. But with every action we take there are consequences that will effect our life, consequences that many people don't know about or do not want to think about.

The global consumption of bottled water has exploded in the last decade. In 1976 less than half a million bottles of water were sold in the United States. The growth in consumption has grown exponentially. The bottled water industry is now a multi-billion dollar industry just in the United States. Global consumption is also growing at a dizzying rate.

There are groups that are beginning to educate the public about the problem which is our addiction to bottled water. Some news programs have also addressed the misinformation about tap water. Communities report to their constituents about the safety of their municipal water but more is needed to break the bottled water habit. Here are six reasons to break our bottled water habit.

Things You Will Need

Reusable Water Bottle
Water Filter (optional)

Step 1

It takes Energy to Make the Bottles. Bottle plants require large amounts of energy to make the billions of bottles that are required to feed our bottled water habit. More energy is needed to bottle the water and more energy is required to transport the water to retail outlets. Even more energy is required to refrigerate that water so consumers have the convenience of purchasing cold water. Then there is the energy required to fuel the recycling trucks and transportation to recycling plants which require more energy to transform that plastic into new bottles. It becomes obvious what a large industry the bottled water business has become. Although it is providing jobs for countless individuals; it is being done at the expense of the consumer and the environment without any discernible benefits other than convenience. Individual's could purchase a re-usable water bottle that could be filled with tap water or filtered tap water and refrigerated in their homes.

Step 2

Many Bottled Water Supplies Come From Municipal Sources. It has been estimated that 25% of bottled water comes from municipal sources, in other words they are taking tap water, purifying it, bottling it and selling it to the consumer at a great profit. Check the label on the container for the source of the water, they are required to report where the water comes from. You can buy water filters that fit right over your tap; there are also containers with built in filters that either filter the water when you pour it in, or filter the water as you are pouring it out (or drinking it).

Step 3

Bottled Water Isn't Green. People who choose to consume bottled water believe they are being healthy and are making the right choice, but that choice is anything but green and healthy for their community and the environment. The United States is the largest consumer of bottled water; in 2008 Americans consumed more than 8.6 billion gallons of bottled water or an estimated 50 billion bottles each year. Approximately only 1 in 4 container is recycled, many rural communities do not have recycling programs and in those that do not all individuals recycle. In communities that recycle many are overwhelmed by the large quantity of plastic containers.

Step 4

Photo by Rugby471 from wikimedia

Cost of bottled water. In most cases tap water or municipal water in the United States costs less than one cent per gallon. The cost of a 20 ounce bottle of water can vary, but it is not uncommon to see prices as high as $1.50 or more. This equates to about $9.00 a gallon for water. At current prices you could buy 3 gallons of gasoline and have change left over in most parts of the United States. More than 90% of the cost of a bottled water goes to shipping, marketing, retailing, and other expenses.

Step 5

Tap Water is Safe

Bottled water in most cases are not any healthier than tap or municipal water. In studies conducted on bottled water and tap water, all tap water had less than 3 CFUs/mL bacterial content (colony-forming unit). Most of the water bottle samples had less than 1, but some had much greater than 6 CFUs/mL. Bottled water in many cases come from the same municipal water supply that services communities throughout the United States.

Step 6

Tooth Decay - photo by Indolences, wikimedia

The Return of the Cavity. Dentists are seeing a return of cavities in children as more and more parents are switching from drinking tap water, which in most cases contain added fluoride, to bottled water which does not contain fluoride. Tooth decay can become a major health problem in individuals with cavities. The Brita, Pur, and most other filters do not remove fluoride from the drinking water, so you can filter your water and have your fluoride too.

Note: Recycling is a very important way to keep plastic, glass, paper, and other products out of the landfill. This article is not intended to be anti-recycling but the message that should be taken away is that of reduction.

Reducing the amount of bottled water consumed would reduce the stress on our environment and save consumers billions of dollars annually. Educating the consumer about the safety of tap water is important to addressing this problem; otherwise we are destined to see the numbers of plastic bottles continue to increase in our landfills and overwhelm our ability to recycle. The need for bottled water and our reliance on plastic bottles is an artificial construct that has been encouraged through massive advertising and marketing by an industry that earns massive profits off of the continuing and unfounded consumer fear. Clean water is a product that is readily available in everyone's home for less than a penny a gallon, yet individuals seem eager to pay a thousand times that for bottled water. The proper education about tap water safety; misinformation about tap water safety; and the effectiveness of inexpensive tap water filters available to consumers is a start to reducing the number of bottled water consumed.

Tips & Warnings

Check your communities municipal water quarterly or annual report.

If you continue to buy bottled water - please check the label for the source of the water.