The spring or mineral water bottle is the choice of container among the health conscious; but at times economics get in the way of health consciousness as the bottle is refilled again and again with tap water .
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Despite reuse of the plastic bottle, the Earth Policy Institute reports that the planet’s health may be suffering as a result of the amount of plastics (water bottles, plastic bags…) being used by billions of people globally – more than 41 billion gallons (154 billion liters) of bottled water is consumed annually. Though not necessarily healthier than tap water, bottled water can be 10,000 times more expensive at times costing more than gasolene, when transportation and packaging are taken into account. Bottled water consumption is a global phenomenon – bottled water produced on one continent is consumed on another. For example, one company in Helsinki, Finland, in 2004 shipped 1.4 million bottles of Finnish tap water to Saudi Arabia—2,700 miles (4,300 kilometers) away.Well-known French brands Evian and Volvic export between 50 and 60 percent of their water to destinations across the globe.The report lists the U.S. as the world’s biggest drinker of bottled water, consuming 7 billion gallons (26 billion liters) annually. Mexico has the second highest consumption, followed by China and Brazil.Italians drink the most per person, equivalent to about two glasses a day.
Which is better, healthier water? The tap? Or the bottle?
Environmental groups challenge the notion that water is healthier from a bottle than a tap.
Muriella’s Corner highlighted the Natural Resources Defense Council and its four-year review of the bottled water industry, which concluded “there is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle, it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap.”
The New York City-based action group added that an estimated 25 percent of bottled water is “really just tap water in a bottle—sometimes further treated, sometimes not.”
In Great Britain the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management recently published a report questioning the quality, labeling, and environmental cost of bottled water. It should also be noted that the high mineral content of some bottled waters makes them unsuitable for feeding babies and young children.
But the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) says the product provides a convenient, healthy alternative to calorie-laden portable drinks or those containing caffeine and artificial additives.
The IBWA, based in Alexandria, Virginia, points out that bottled water is fully regulated by government agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to be guaranteed safe to drink.
Meanwhile, in many developing countries, tap water is either unavailable or unsafe, making bottled water a better option, but not too many people can afford to buy the amount needed to quench their families’ thirst.
Tons of Plastic
Even when bottled water is safer to drink, campaigners say that the packaging is threatening environmental health.
Worldwide some 2.7 million tons (2.4 million metric tons) of plastic are used to bottle water each year, according to EPI.
The plastic most commonly used is polyethylene terepthalate (PET), which is derived from crude oil.
Americans thirst for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually to make the needed plastics, enough to fuel some 100,000 U.S. cars for a year, according to an EPI executive.
About 86 percent of plastic water bottles in the U.S. become garbage or litter, according to the Container Recycling Institute in Washington, D.C.
Plastic debris in the environment can take between 400 and 1,000 years to degrade.
To help alleviate environmental harm from PET, some companies are adopting a more eco-friendly bottling alternative.
For example, Colorado-based BIOTA bottles its spring water in a container made from a biodegradable plastic called polylactic acid (PLA), which is derived from corn.
The bottling company says, given the right composting conditions, the container will disappear in 75 to 80 days.
Source: National Geographic News