GREEN LCA - ASK ECO-GAL
Just say 'NO' to Bottled Water
BY "ECO-GAL" Mayre Press
These days everyone grouses about the high cost of gasoline, which passed $3 per gallon and is inching upwards to $4. So it is baffling that many consumers do not object to paying more than $9.85 per gallon for bottled water (based on about $1.25 per pint with eight pints in a gallon). When consumers pay more than a dollar for bottled water, 95 percent of the cost is for the bottle, label, lid and transportation.
According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, Americans consumed 22.6 gallons of bottled water per capita in 2003, up from 10.5 gallons in 1993. People are willing to pay a premium price for bottled water because they perceive that bottled water (1) tastes better and (2) is cleaner and safer than tap water.
A section of [a suburb just north of Chicago]'s 2006 Water Quality Report states, "...Your tap water has met all US/EPA and state (IL) drinking water standards." Further, a recent taste-test at the Farmers' Market showed that 130 participants preferred [a suburb just north of Chicago]'s tap water 4-to-1 over a popular bottled-water brand.
Cost and taste aside, the key reason to avoid bottled water is the bottle itself. In the United States, plastic bottles have only a 10-percent recycled rate. The other 90 percent ends up in landfills, parks, beaches and along roadways. According to a Sierra Club report, 30 million plastic bottles are discarded each day - more than 10 billion a year.
Plastic is made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource; plastic production leads to the release of a variety of chemicals. The Berkeley Ecology Center reported that most of the smaller bottles used as water containers are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET or #1), which generates 100 times more toxic emissions than an equivalent amount of glass. In fact, the plastic industry releases 14 percent of the most toxic industrial releases, such as styrene, benzene and trichloroethane, into the air. Other major emissions include sulfur oxides, nitrous oxides, methanol, ethylene oxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Eleven states have "bottle bills," or container-deposit laws that require a minimum refundable deposit on beverage containers to ensure a high rate of recycling. Additionally, seven states (including Illinois) have bottle-bill legislation pending. In Illinois, the "I-CAN Bottle Bill" (HB-4080) was introduced on May 18, 2005. It was referred to the Rules Committee later that month, where it remained until it landed in legislative limbo.
An alternative to buying bottled water is to use a canteen. One contemporary version is a lightweight, reusable bottle of stainless steel with a cap made from non-leaching polypropylene plastic (#5). "Klean Kanteen" is one such product; local retailers and online shops carry others.
There are a number of steps that eco-conscious consumers can take. The first is to stop buying bottled water. Purchase a refillable/reusable anywhere that calls for a beverage on the go. Practice activism by visiting www.toolkit.bottlebill.org to learn what to do. Also go to www.lighterfootstep.com/5-reasons-not-to-drink-bottled-water.html for ideas about taking a "No Bottled Water" pledge online.
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