Saturday, November 28, 2009

Just Say "No" to Bottled Water

Minimizing gasoline use is obviously just one way we birders can alter our personal habits and lessen our impact on the environment. Altogether avoiding the use of plastic water bottles is another way. I did some online research on this topic and found the following facts - some of which were obvious to me and some not:
1) Plastic water bottles are a significant contributor to landfills and litter. We consume over 20 billion plastic water bottles per year in this country and over 80% ends up in landfill. These plastic bottles take an estimated 1,000 years to biodegrade.
2) Plastic water bottles are part of the plastic pollution of the ocean which effects marine organisms such as pelagic birds, turtles, whales, seals and sea lions which swallow them. For example, it has been documented that Laysan Albatross chicks have died due to this plastic. One study found that 90% of Northern Fulmars in Europe died with plastic in their stomachs. Small pieces of plastic are effecting the lowest level of organisms in marine environment. They then work their way up the food chain in greater concentrations. There is now a patch of plastic debris in the ocean which is larger than the continental United Sates.
3) Bottled water is no safer or tastier than municipal tap water. Bottled water is often not subject to a comparable standards of purity, or enforcement of such standards. Blind taste tests have even have shown that tap water can be tastier than bottled water (e.g. the TV show "Good Morning America" had a taste test where New York city tap water was rated higher than several brands of bottled water, including Evian). The incidence of arsenic and other poisons and carcinogens is higher in bottled water than municipal tap water in this country.
4) Even if 100% of plastic water bottles were recycled, it is better to just not buy these bottles in the first place. It takes energy to transport recycled plastic, sort it and reuse it. Recycled plastic reportedly loses some of its strength and flexibility and so only a portion of plastic bottles can be made from recycled rather than virgin plastic.
5) The plastic in water bottles can potentially effect the safety of the water in those bottles. Studies have shown that potentially harmful chemicals can leach into water from plastic bottles. The use of non-colored plastics that use polyethylene (#1, #2 and #4) and polypropylene (#5) may be safer than bottles that use polyvinyl chloride (#3), polystyrene (#6) and polycarbonate (#7), but in the long run glass and stainless steel bottles may be much safer bets.
I know I will refill my own non-plastic bottles with tap water in the future and encourage groups to which I belong to avoid the use of plastic water bottles. I would also support legislation to reduce their use. (An exception to avoiding plastic water bottles might occur in certain areas of the world where tap water is not safe to drink.)


  1. I'm glad to see other people realizing that plastic bottles aren't a good deal. For myself, I use a big reusable #2 bottle made by Nalgene.

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