Plastic Water Bottles, BPA & the Environment

An Overview of Plastic Bottles and your Health and Tips to Reduce your Usage

Sure, grabbing a cold bottle of water from the grocer’s cooler is quick and convenient, but at what cost? Take a look at plastic bottles by the numbers and you’ll soon discover just how big a waste plastic water bottles can be!

  • Financial waste: Single-use bottles of water cost up to 10,000 times more than tap water! Going with tap water and a reusable water bottle can save you hundreds of dollars every year.[1] Want to know how much you’re wasting every year? Check out this Bottled Water Cost Calculator to find out for yourself.
  • Oil waste: PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, the most commonly used for bottle water, are made of plastic which is produced using fossil fuels, which keeps us dependent on foreign oil. Americans use more than 17 million barrels of oil every year to support their bottled water habits.[2]
  • Energy waste: ransporting water through a municipal system is very energy-efficient, even over long distances. But carting heavy bottled water using inefficient vehicles (trains, trucks, boats) add unnecessary fossil fuel burning to the mix and contributing to climate change. And despite the fact that glass is heavier to transport, it requires the same amount of energy to make compared to PET plastic production.[3]
  • Solid waste: Americans consume more than 34 billion one-use plastic beverage bottles every year, 80% of which are not recycled. That represents 877 wasted plastic bottles every second.[4] Canadians recycle only 12% of their water bottles.[5] That plastic can take up to 1,000 years to decompose when sent to the landfill.
  • Water waste: While filling a plastic bottle with water makes sense, using enormous quantities of water to make the bottle in the first place doesn’t. 17.6 kilograms of water are required to make 1 kilogram of PET plastic - that’s not a great return on the water investment![6]
  • Toxic waste: Creating PET plastic is less toxic than other types of plastic bottles, but it is far from eco-friendly. Compared to manufacturing glass, PET production results in 100 times more of the following toxic emissions: nickel, ethylbenzene, ethylene oxide, and benzene.

 

Health concerns with plastics used for water and food

But the environmental waste isn’t the only troubling thing about plastic water bottles. Scientists are only just now beginning to discover plastic leaching problems that can create several health hazards for those who drink regularly from plastic water bottles

  • BPA: Bisphenol-A (BPA) plastic is a chemical used to line PET and polycarbonate plastic water bottles as well as some stainless steel and aluminum water bottles. This chemical has been linked to some serious human health problems, including hormone disruption, insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, etc. and should be avoided.
  • Antimony: PET water bottles are sometimes made with antimony which is a contaminant responsible for both acute and chronic health problems. Studies have shown that antimony can leach into the beverage contained in a PET bottle, which is especially true when the bottle’s temperature increases to higher levels.
  • Tap vs.bottled water: The truth is that by and large, most bottled water comes right out of the tap, making it no safer than using your own tap water from home or the office.[7] If you’re concerned, have your tap water tested and get yourself a filtration system, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re healthier by drinking bottled water because you’re likely not!

 

How to reduce plastic water bottle use

If you want to kick the disposable water bottle habit, then follow these simple steps:

  • Have several reusable bottles that suit various purposes - one for while you’re at the office, one for hiking, and one for while you’re commuting to and from work. Have a back-up for each purpose will help eliminate the excuse to reach for a disposable when your regular reusable bottle is “dirty.”
  • Plan ahead by putting clean water bottles by the back door and in your car so that you have them where you need them and when you need them.
  • Have a bottle of water chilling in the fridge at all times so that you’ve always got one when you need to run out the door in a hurry.
  • If you’re a water snob and need yours filtered, look for a reusable water bottle with a built-in filter. No more excuses!
  • When at a restaurant, always opt for tap water unless you’re aware of confirmed health hazards with drinking tap water.

 

The eco-friendly water bottle choice is therefore a reusable water bottle made of an inert material such as stainless steel or glass that won’t leach chemicals into your drinks and will reduce your waste on every level.

For more information check out our article on how you can reduce your use of plastic by using an eco-friendly, reusable water bottle.






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References

1  Bottled Water. (n.d.). Retrieved July 6, 2010, from Container Recycling Institute: http://www.container-recycling.org/issues/bottledwater.htm

2  (Bottled Water: Pouring Resources Down the Drain , 2006)

3  Howard, B. C. (n.d.). Despite the Hype, Bottled Water is Neither CLEANER nor GREENER Than Tap Water. Retrieved July 8, 2010, from E/Magazine.com: http://www.emagazine.com/view/?1125

4  (Bottled Water: Pouring Resources Down the Drain , 2006)

5  Lesson 8 Operation Water Pollution. (n.d.). Retrieved July 6, 2010, from Safe Water: http://www.safewater.org/PDFS/owp/lesson8_links/Bottled%20Water%20Jigsaw%20Information.pdf

6   (Lesson 8 Operation Water Pollution)

 Consumer Guide to Water Filters. (n.d.). Retrieved July 8, 2010, from Natural Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/gfilters.asp

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