I have always struggled with the issue of bottled water; my views of the issue change regularly. I don’t have a definitive solution or answer to the issue, just a lot of ideas. There’s been a lot of research done recently on the water drinking habits of Canadians.
First, I think it is important to separate the issue into two parts — the package (the plastic bottle), and the product (the actual water). Understandably, most people reject the notion of water — a basic human right — being considered a product, but just bear with me.
The vast majority of bottled water is sold in plastic bottles #1 PET (polyethylene terephthalate). Plastic bottles #1 is one of the easiest items to recycle, with a large percentage being recycled into polyester fabric material. These bottles are accepted in Halton’s Blue Box program.
From a recycling perspective, there is no difference between a #1 PET plastic water bottle, plastic pop bottle, or plastic juice bottle. So if you want to ban one bottle, do you need to ban all plastic beverage bottles?
Interestingly, it actually takes more water to make the plastic bottle, than what the plastic bottle will contain.
Some people argue that many plastic bottles end up in the garbage. But if plastic bottles end up in the garbage, it is because people put them there, usually because of a lack of knowledge, lack of access to proper recycling, or due to plain laziness. A waste audit conducted of Halton homes found that 0.49% of the average household garbage was plastic bottles #1 PET (water, pop, juice, ketchup, etc.).
In the United States, some companies are now selling water “bottled” in a gable top carton (like a milk carton), and which can also be recycled in the Blue Box.
Municipal tap water is by far less expensive than bottled water. In fact, most bottled water is more expensive than a comparable quantity of gasoline!
Municipal tap water is tested much more regularly than bottled water, but interestingly, a lot of bottled water actually comes from municipal water sources! Some water for bottled water is extracted from different communities around the world, which ends up removing those residents’ ability to drink their own local water as sources becomes depleted.
Many schools and community centres have removed bottled water from sale at their facilities. What’s interesting is that many of these concession stands or vending machines still sell bottled pop — and yet cola is 90% water and diet cola is 99% water. Does the addition of sugar and colouring make a water-based product acceptable?
The best solution is to avoid purchasing bottled water. Bring a reusable, refillable thermos or water bottle to school, work and play. Remember to clean your reusable water bottle regularly. This is what I do — water is my beverage of choice, and I always carry a reusable water bottle.
If you are in a situation where you have to buy bottled water, hold on to the bottle until you find a recycling bin. You can always put the empty water bottle in your home’s Blue Box — remember, caps go in the garbage.
What are your thoughts on the issue of bottled water?