Obviously, I didn’t post this “here” on Earth Day, but that’s when it was written for Facebook and multiple Tweets.
As its Earth Day, I figured I should share more on the issues with Bottled Water. There are a bunch, so I’ll just focus on their construction. This goes along with ITEM #4, with regards to the top Environmental Threats.
To make bottles (for water), we use natural gas or petroleum, its easiest and cheapest to do with natural gas. Hey, I wonder if the bottled water industry is active in supporting fracking? I seem to remember seeing something about Nestle supporting Fracking… but I am not bitching about Fracking today. However, I don’t seem to be able to get accurate natural gas estimates; so I’ll have to use oil.
Any time we make plastics we are using a fossil fuel, plain and simple. Delivering the bottles to the bottling plant and out for sale uses fossil fuels to power the transport vehicles. Keep this in mind when I discuss other plastics, because using reusable bottles and larger containers will still use fossil fuels, just less.
So last year Americans purchased 50 billion bottles of water (500 ml); which required 18 million barrels of oil (756 million gallons). I am going to assume it was all consumed in some way and 23% of the bottles were recycled. The bottles are made of PETE and are very recyclable, I wear lots of polar fleece to support that. However, in a landfill, well they don’t do anything, but take up space. Again, this is another topic, but landfill space is finite so the 800,045 tons of plastic bottles ended up crushed down from 25 million cubic yards to about a mere 16 million cubic yards. So, we are not only wasting the 756 million gallons of oil (hey I bet that raises the price at the pump), but we are filling up our landfills. In this case when I say, “we are filling up our landfills”; I really mean “we”. Last year we landfilled 582 million gallons of oil…
To reduce bottled water production and distribution will require effort to change the behavior in the US (and all the other places that are convinced they have to have bottled water); but recycling, “we” know how to recycle and much like the water we are already paying for in our tap, we are already paying for our community recycling. There are reusable plastic bottles, made just for preserving and transporting drinking water; and they have an incredible life span. I am using a Nalgene bottle I stole from my college chem lab (91), plus a bunch of other Nalgene and metal bottles that I’ve picked up along the way. Oh yeah, and travel mugs, you can fill them with water too. There have been some health issues with some plastics and I put my faith in BPA free plastics, but if you feel they are unsafe, you can use aluminum reusable bottles.
So the final kicker on the waste of fossil fuels and bottled water. Approximately 7.4% of the bottled water, bottled last year, did not sell and it all has an expiration date. So, what do we do with expired bottled water? Any one do the math yet? So roughly 3.7 billion bottles were left on the shelves and had to be disposed of… Ut oh, that’s 488 million gallons of “clean” water added to the leachate of the landfills, not to mention the 56 million gallons of oil we are tossing away as well. I’ve seen this when Target clears their shelves. There’s waste… DEFINED!