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Bottled Water Debate

The bottled water debate has fired up in London Ontario, and there is talk of bottled water at Toronto City Hall as well. London voted to ban the sales of water bottles in all municipal buildings to reduce waste in local landfills and help the environment.

I’ve been happily drinking tap water for over 6 years now, and I could never understand why people purchase cases of bottled water. According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s per capita consumption of bottled water jumped from 28.4 litres in 1998 to 66 litres in 2006. Our tap water in Canadian cities is safe and healthy, so there is no reason why we need to generate waste on bottled water. Even in the year 2000 after 2500 people became ill and at least 7 people died from the contaminated water supply in Walkerton Ontario, I couldn’t bring myself to buying bottles of water, so I had purchased 10 litre jugs of water instead.

There are certain times when I can justify buying bottled water; if I’m out at an event, or on the road, and I don’t have any Nalgene bottles with me. But I couldn’t fathom buying bottled water and drinking it at home or work. Not only does it take unnecessary energy to package and ship the bottles, recycling the plastic generates a lesser quality plastic, so the end result is the bottles are “downcycled” into lesser quality plastic products, and many bottles end up in landfills. This is still a major problem in the U.S. where recycling facilities aren’t as common in some smaller cities and rural areas. Other environmentalists will also point out that recycling water bottles takes a lot of energy in itself. So when you look at the lifeline of a water bottle, it’s staggering how wasteful it really is. According to National Geographic magazine, the production of each single-use water bottle requires more water in manufacturing than the bottle can hold.

At work we have a water filtration system that hooks into our tap water and provides an extra layer of filtering to make it taste even fresher. I always give people at work a hard time when I see them buying bottled water when we have a perfectly good filtering system on-site. According to this Globe and Mail article, two of the most popular brands of bottled water (Dasani and Aquafina) use water from municipal water supplies in Canada.

Whenever I go to the bathroom, I always look down at that water, and I can’t believe that we are peeing into perfectly fine drinking water while some developing countries would kill to be able to drink that very same water. It’s amazing how much we take for granted. Next time you pee, think about how lucky we are (for me).

Here are some interesting facts on U.S. plastic recycling from

  • In 2006, Americans drank about 167 bottles of water each, but only recycled an average of 23 percent. That leaves 38 billion water bottles in landfills
  • Bottled water costs between $1 and $4 per gallon and 90 percent of the cost is in the bottle, lid and label
  • It takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture a year’s supply of bottled water. That’s enough oil to fuel 100,000 cars
  • Eight out of 10 plastic water bottles become landfill waste
  • In 2007 we spent $16 billion on bottled water. That’s more than we spent on iPods or movie tickets
  • Plastic bottles take 700 years before they begin to decompose in a landfill
  • If everyone in NYC gave up water bottles for one week they would save 24 million bottles from being landfilled; one month would save 112 million bottles and one year would save 1.328 billion bottles from going into the landfill

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