Chances are most of us have indoor plumbing in our homes – so why are we purchasing and transporting bottled water from the supermarket?
Myth: Bottled water is healthier water.
Just look at the labels of bottled water: Sources are from "deep, pristine pools of spring water" or "majestic alpine peaks". In reality water is just water, and municipal water systems are well-regulated. While public safety groups correctly point out that many municipal water systems are aging and there remain hundreds of chemical contaminants, there's very little evidence that suggests bottled water is any cleaner or better for you than its tap equivalent. Yet bottled water is extremely expensive, with one regular single-use litre bottle costing more than a litre of gasoline. The truth is, most bottled water is just filtered water.
Bottled water is regulated as a food product under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and as such, water bottling plants are inspected on average only once every 3 years. Tap water regulation on the other hand, is far more stringent, with municipal tap water being continually tested – both during and after treatment.
Check your bottled water labels carefully: The source of the spring or mineral water must be clearly identified, otherwise it may come from any source, including a well or municipal water supply, and may be treated to make it fit for human consumption.
A WWF study concluded that in 50% of the cases studied, the only difference between tap and bottled water was that the latter contained added minerals and salts, which "do not actually mean the water is healthier."
The plastic often used to make water bottles contains a variety of health-harming chemicals that can easily leach out and contaminate the water, such as cancer-causing PFOA's (perfluorooctanoic acid), PBDEs (flame retardant chemicals), which have been linked to reproductive problems and altered thyroid levels, phthalates, which are reproductive toxins, and BPA, which disrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone estrogen. If you leave your water bottle in a hot car, or reuse it, your exposure is magnified because heat and stress increase the amount of chemicals that leach out of the plastic.
Myth: Plastic water bottles are 100% recyclable and among the most recycled products on the market.
Bottled water is an unessential use of an essential resource. Just because something is recyclable it doesn't mean it gets recycled.
More than 4 billion pounds of plastic water bottles go into our landfills each year, at an annual cleanup cost to most cities of at least $70 million dollars. Fewer than 20% of plastic water bottles discarded are actually recycled.
Depending upon location and regional recycling programs, anywhere between 20-90% of plastic bottles end up in dumps, without being actually recycled, where it will take between 450 and 1000 years to break down. The sad truth is that thanks to their slow decay rate, the vast majority of all plastics ever produced, still exist… somewhere.
Canadian municipalities are dealing with a waste management crisis and our landfills cannot support the amount of garbage generated by the bottled water industry. In Toronto alone, it's estimated that as many as 65 million empty plastic water bottles per year end up as garbage in a landfill site. In other communities, the percentage of water bottles that end up in landfills can be as high as 80%.
Myth: Banning the sale of bottled water removes the healthiest option available in beverage containers available.
The choice is not about choosing between bottled water and sugary drinks. It is between choosing bottled water and bringing your own water from home. In the same way that Pepsi doesn't sell Coke products through its vending machines, cities should not be selling a product that competes with publicly delivered water options. Beverage corporations work hard to get consumers to drink less tap water and more of their products so they can profit – regardless of how damaging they may be to our environment.
Myth: Instead of focusing on phasing out bottled water, the solution should be focused on more recycling.
The bottled water industry is promoting and investing money in recycling programs that appear environmentally friendly, even though most companies continue to use 100% virgin PET plastic in all of its bottles. Nowhere in this 'pitch' to recycle do these companies talk about reducing the proliferation of plastic bottles. Should they state their solutions in the bottle? Of course they should, no questions asked!
Myth: Bottled water is the most environmentally friendly beverage product available in packaged form.
There is no 'green' solution to plastic bottled water given that it requires more energy to produce plastic bottles, fill them with water, and ship them to retail outlets. It takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to meet the demand of the water bottle manufacturing industry alone. It is estimated that 3 litres of water is used to package 1 litre of bottled water.