Bottled water contributes to plastic waste

By Ryan Kirby
September 13, 2007

Jessica Chesko/Photo Staff

With all the trendy restaurants in major cities switching to non-genetically engineered food and cooking without trans fat, our country still manages to dump over 2 million tons of plastic waste from bottled water every year into our landfills. Aside from the simple fact of unbelievable amounts of waste, what about the environmental cost of all the oil that goes into making the plastic bottles and CO2 that pollutes the atmosphere from transporting these bottles across the country?

A recent MSNBC article by Dr. Arthur Caplan found that major beverage companies such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola are investing in their bottled water, because of how difficult it has become to sell the sugared beverages that have been so profitable in the past. Per capital, the United States now consumes over 27 gallons of bottled water per year, over 30 million bottles disposed per day. Caplan asks why would we pollute our earth when there is an alternative that costs only pennies in tap water?

Cabrini’s Dr. David Dunbar, associate professor of biology, shed some light on the situation, suggesting that consumers now use a reusable bottle that they can fill up with tap water throughout the day, thus avoiding waste and pollution and saving a lot of money.

Dr. Anne Coleman, assistant professor of biology, uses the bottled water issue as a case study for her classes. Coleman said, “There are several problems. People don’t recycle like they should, which causes a huge landfill issue. There is also no way to know what you are drinking is safe because of the lack of regulations, and the companies bottling this water are often using fresh water sources that entire ecosystems depend on.” Coleman also suggested a company called BIOTA, which has created the world’s first biodegradable drinking water bottle. The bottle is said to bio-degrade in 12 weeks, which is a clear cut better result than the regular bottles made with oil, which can never bio-degrade.

MSNBC followed up Caplan’s article with a survey that revealed while 47 percent of Americans drink bottled water regularly, 19 percent of them would switch to tap given this new information. Additionally 36 percent claimed to not drink bottled water anyway and 22 percent would consider drinking less. An unscientific survey of 30 Cabrini College students revealed much different results. Twenty five of the students surveyed had no idea of the environmental issues that bottled water presented, while 97 percent admitted to drinking bottled water on at least a weekly basis. When presented with the environmental problems bottle water causes, 50 percent of the students considered drinking less bottled water although none would swear it off completely. Students cited bottled water’s convenience as the main reason for continuing, and despite the facts presented many still considered tap water to be less healthy.

John Graham, a senior business major, said, “I would switch to tap water because of all the excess waste that we are producing by using bottles. If there wasn’t another option, that would be different, but bottled water is a solution and it’s even cheaper,” Julian Cruz, senior human resources major said, “I wouldn’t drink tap water because bottles are too convenient.”

Dunbar brought up a few more interesting points to consider. There are no health benefits to drinking bottled water so it is baffling to think why we have become so accustomed to doing so. Dunbar admits he is guilty of doing it to from time to time. Dunbar also pointed out that these companies are further damaging poor third world countries’ ability to use their own resources. As the companies buy rights to streams in these countries and bottle up their water the people don’t see any of the profit and they are deprived of their own fresh water source.

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Ryan Kirby

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