By the time you finish reading this sentence, factories around the world will have churned out 100,000 pet plastic bottles. Statistics place production of the global ‘king of trash’ at million pieces each minute.
It is not uncommon to see someone with bottled water in their hand today. Varying opinions exist on the use of bottled water and contradictory information available may confuse consumers.
Bottled water, the designer-look drink that has become a near-universal accessory of modern life, maybe refreshing but certainly not clean. A major study has concluded that its production is seriously damaging the environment.
Water is being called the ‘Blue Gold’ of the 21st century. Thanks to increasing urbanization and population, shifting climates and industrial pollution. Freshwater is fast becoming humanities most precious resource. Multinational corporations are stepping in to purchase groundwater and distribution rights wherever they can, and the bottled water industry is an important component in their drive to commoditize what many feels is a basic human right- the access to safe and affordable water.
200 Billion Bottles of water are consumed globally each year. Of which 176 billion will end up in landfills and oceans. It costs 10,000 times more to create the bottled version than it does to produce tap water. Huge resources are needed to draw it from the ground, package and distribute.
Barrels of oil are used per year to manufacture bottled water. Pumping, processing, transportation, and refrigeration of bottled water is estimated to use around 50 million barrels of oil every year. This is equivalent to oil that can be used to fuel more than 100,000 cars every year in Africa. The burning of these massive fossil fuels causes atmospheric pollution that contaminates water in our oceans and lakes.
Studies show that consumers associate bottled water with healthy living. But bottled water is not guaranteed to be any healthier than tap water. In fact, roughly 40 percent of bottled water begins as tap water; often the only difference is added minerals that have no marked health benefit. In addition, the world’s leading brands of bottled water are contaminated with tiny particles that are likely seeping in during the packaging process.
According to a researcher Sherri Mason of the State University of New York, 250 bottles of water tested in Brazil, China, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Thailand, and the United States were contaminated. Plastic particles were identified in the water samples.
Capitalism in Kenya is alarming. People consider money more than the lives of fellow humans. Poisonous goods are roaming the market and not even the government can do anything about it. Bottled water is sold in every corner of the country making one question – how many bottled water companies do we have in Kenya and where are they located?
Truth is, some of the bottled water you buy is of poor quality than tap water. Standards are not adhered to. A significant number of bottled water sold in Kenya is neither pure nor pristine. Major companies like Coca-Cola admitted that Dasani water-popular in Kenyan markets was contaminated with plastic particles.
Brands such as Aqua, Aquafina, Evian, Nestle Pure Life and San Pellegrino had plastic debris which included polythene terephthalate (PET) – used to make plastic bottle caps and nylon.
In a recent report, Rwanda Standards Board cautioned Rwandans against buying bottled water. This was after the bottled water was found to be contaminated. The board claimed that water business is booming as people trust that the water is pure. However, the report says that people collect bottles from dustbins and fill them with water from any source without the desired standards.
Particle concentration in bottled water is estimated to 10.4 particles per liter. Experts caution that the extent of the risk to human health posed by such contamination remains unclear.
Another risk of bottled water is the threat they pose to aquatic life. After the water has been consumed, the plastic bottle must be disposed of. According to the Container Recycling Institute, 86% of plastic water bottles become garbage or litter. Incinerating bottles produces toxic byproducts such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals. Buried water bottles take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade. This poses a huge threat to the environment.
In addition to the strains bottled water puts on our ecosystem, the rapid growth in this industry means that water extraction is concentrated in communities where bottling plants are located. Water shortages in these areas are common. Farmers, fishers, and others who depend on water for their livelihoods suffer from the concentrated water extraction when water tables drop quickly.
There is no question that clean, affordable drinking water is essential to the health of our global community. But bottled water is not the answer, nor does it solve problems for the 1.2 billion people that lack secure water supply.
Improving and expanding existing water treatment and sanitation systems is more likely to provide safe and sustainable sources of water over the long term. In villages, rainwater harvesting and digging new wells can create more affordable sources of water.
We take water for granted. We waste it. Almost 1.2 billion people around the world do not have access to clean water, yet we are happy to pay over the odds for branded water. Skipping the bottle is one step towards solving the water crisis.