In 2008, the bottled water market cornered 28 percent of the liquid refreshment market, according to the Beverage Marketing Association. Bottled water has become big business, but the industry is not without its critics. The upside of bottled water is that the convenience of it has people drinking more water instead of soda or other sugar-laden drinks, but the downsides are numerous.
It's Just Water
Not only is bottled water just water, but it just might also be water from your very own municipal water plant -- or one just like it. As much as 25 to 30 percent of bottled water comes from municipal water sources, and may or may not undergo further purification before bottling, according to the National Resource Defense Council. But unlike tap water, which requires frequent testing for contaminants, bottled water doesn’t have to meet the same standards or undergo the same testing.
Tap water costs next to nothing, or around $0.002 per gallon, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated in 2004. Bottled water costs anywhere from $0.89 per gallon to over $8.26 per gallon, the Food and Water Watch reported in 2007. Using filtered water costs just $0.31 per gallon and eliminates many of the contaminants often found in water supplies, the Environmental Working Group states.
It's a Resource Drain
Landfills are filled with water bottles. Although plastic waters are recyclable, as many as 86 percent of the discarded bottles end up in the trash rather than the recycling bin, according to the Container Recycling Institute. Just making the bottles uses 1.5 million barrels of oil each year, enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year, the Earth Policy Institute reports.
It May Contain Contaminants
Laboratory testing conducted by the Environmental Working Group and reported on its website in October 2008 by lead author and senior scientist Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., found contaminants exceeding levels allowed in tap water in bottled water. Out of 10 popular brands, four had bacterial contamination and the rest contained 38 different contaminants, with an average of eight contaminants per brand. Two brands contained contaminants in excess of California’s safety standards for water. Cancer-causing agents were found in samples from five states that exceeded voluntary bottling manufacturer's standards. The results of a four-year review of bottled water conducted by the National Research Defense Council showed that 25 percent of samples tested contained contaminants.
- Business Ethics: Is Bottled Water a Waste?
- National Resource Defense Council: Bottled Water Contamination
- National Resource Defense Council: Marketing a Perception of Purity
- Environmental Working Group: Bottled Water Quality Investigation: 10 Major Brands, 38 Pollutants
- National Resource Defense Council: Publications in Print