Disposable Water Bottles – Problem or Not…

February 18, 2009 at 11:45 pm Leave a comment

In follow up to our post on the problem with BPA’s, we’re back again to talk about the issue of disposable water bottles. We read a lot about this issue, from multiple sources surrounding the central issues – 1) providing water which all humans need and 2) unnecessary waste – and, with a mountain of statistics, facts, anecdotes, and personal experience in front of us, we have one conclusion: disposable water bottles have got to go. We’re aware that economic repercussions result from such a hard-line stance, and we are sensitive to the billion dollar industries that relate to the production, distribution, sale, recycling, et cetera of disposable water bottles (we’re strictly talking water here, leave soda and other beverages out of the equation for now.) However, at the end of the day, the extra effort of supplying clean water is not so costly and difficult that it cannot be achieved – and the benefits far outweigh the cost of the waste associated with this particular context.

One source we went to is the International Bottled Water Association. We applaud the IBWA for assertively encouraging people to recycle disposable water bottles and for providing copious volumes of information about disposable water bottles. They even have ‘The Bottled Water Code of Practice’ for members. But right there are two significant problems – 1) to expect people on a large scale to carefully recycle is unrealistic, even with large scale educational programs (which IBWA does not distribute) and 2) companies that produce and distribute disposable water bottles have the choice to become members, rather than legislation that enforces that their business standards fall in line with best-practices. Laissez-Faire free-market Capitalism is nice, but we need boundaries when the very physical environment’s health to sustain human life – in which we accomplish this business – is threatened by our market practices.

We also read the Pacific Institute’s website and fact sheet. The PI are attempting to address this specific context of the issue: “The growing consumption of bottled water raises questions about the product’s economic and environmental costs. Among the most significant concerns are the resources required to produce the plastic bottles and to deliver filled bottles to consumers, including both energy and water.” We think that is a prudent and fair manner of dealing with a global dilemma and support the PI’s balanced examination of the topic. Here are some stats gleaned from their fact sheet:

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, Americans bought a total of 31.2 billion liters of water in 2006. These were sold in bottles ranging from the 8-ounce aquapods popular in school lunches to the multi-gallon bottles found in family refrigerators and office water coolers. Most of this water was sold in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, requiring nearly 900,000 tons of the plastic. PET is produced from fossil fuels – typically natural gas and petroleum.

According to the plastics manufacturing industry, it takes around 3.4 megajoules of energy to make a typical one-liter plastic bottle, cap, and packaging. Making enough plastic to bottle 31.2 billion liters of water required more than 106 billion megajoules of energy. Because a barrel of oil contains around 6 thousand megajoules, the Pacific Institute estimates that the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil were needed to produce these plastic bottles.

The manufacture of every ton of PET produces around 3 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Bottling water thus created more than 2.5 million tons of CO2 in 2006.

In addition to the water sold in plastic bottles, the Pacific Institute estimates that twice as much water is used in the production process. Thus, every liter sold represents three liters of water.

The Pacific Institute estimates that the total amount of energy embedded in our use of bottled water can be as high as the equivalent of filling a plastic bottle one quarter full with oil.


Staggering, ain’t it? Yet, nothing hits home more acutely than our direct experience in light of these statistics. Look around you at the trash cans full of disposable bottles. When you’re at the restaurant or office – how many disposable bottles end up not recycled? And forget about America – we’ve read articles about other parts of the world, and seen pictures of disposable bottles strewn around like leaves in Autumn because other countries have NEED for the clean water, certainly, but zero infrastructure to deal with the bottles which become only so much more trash (message boards about this topic are the best place to meet people around the globe who can speak to this issue.

Okay, how to help? Well…getting yourself a non-disposable bottle to reuse (rather than recycle) is the best that any individual, family, and/or business can do. Next step – encourage others to behave this way. Education is usually all it takes for our friends and family to heed our requests – don’t beat them over the head with it, just lead by example. Maybe you could even get them their own reusable bottle? Check out ecosumo’s online shop for our variety of cheap, effective, and stylish reusable water bottles (for everyone from the on-the-go busy mom, to the urban professional, the athlete, to the children.)

Thanks for helping ecosumo make the producers of our products more conscious of where they come from and where they return to…our one and only planet!


Entry filed under: Green Living Ideas. Tags: , , , , , .

Bisphenol A (BPA) and What You Should Know TOYS!!!

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