We currently live in a society where pre-packaged bottled water is not only commonplace, but is consumed at a rate that rivals the consumption of carbonated drinks. Many of the other beverage options on the market have been continuously struggling to maintain their market share. But, bottled water sales have been increasing steadily since 2013. It’s already outselling both milk and beer within the United States and is expected to outsell carbonated drinks by 2016.
This continued increase in the consumption of bottled water is detrimental for several reasons. Bottled water produces close to one and a half million tons of plastic waste every year. Only one in five plastic water bottles is recycled. Additionally, certain plastics that are technically biodegradable don’t actually break down for anywhere from four hundred to five hundred years. Before it even becomes that waste, it uses up to forty seven million gallons of oil worldwide in its creation every year.
Not only that, but water that is imported from foreign countries has become synonymous with status. In the United Kingdom, over 22% of water sold there is imported (the numbers are a lower in the US, with 1.5% of bottled water being of imported origin). From a sustainability standpoint, the import (and export) of bottled water between developed countries that have their own drinking water infrastructure (natural water sources and abundant filtration systems) is madness. There is no excuse for the amount of oil/fuel that is used in the transport of water to countries that already have drinkable water.
Bottled water has also been proven time and time again to be no healthier than tap water. The water systems in most developed nations are constantly monitored and well regulated. In the US, the water controlled by municipalities is protected by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is constantly checked for toxins and bacteria.
A shift back to consuming less bottled water, and shifting to reusable containers would do a significant amount of good for sustainability purposes.