Sustainable Water | Some facts about bottled water

While we need water, is bottled water really necessary? Or is it somehow a luxury we afford ourselves? What about the fact that more than one out of six people in the world lack access to safe drinking water? And we could all easily enjoy safe, clean, and tasty tap water?

1. Britain consumes 3 billions litres of bottled water per year. UK bottled water consumption per person advanced to nearly 34 litres in 2011, up from 26.9 litres in 2001. It is estimated that longer-term growth will continue, with bottled water consumption projected to reach almost 41 litres per person by 2021.

However, in Europe Britain is not the biggest consumer of bottled water. The winners? Italians, apparently [shame on me….!]

2. Typically bottled water costs up to 500 times more than the price of tap water. The price of tap water is approximately one tenth of a pence per litre, compared with an average of 69p a litre for bottled water. This means that over the course of a year, if you fill a reusable bottle and drink tap water it will cost around £1. But if you drink bottled water it will cost you around £503.70. [Considering 2 litres of water a day]

3. Tap water is constantly moving, staying fresh and not stagnating.  It is also filtered, disinfected, and is tested many times a day. According to Thames Water, they carry out over 400,000 tests on samples of water each year. It is tested for 50 different things to determine the microbiological, chemical, radiological and aesthetic qualities. In contrast, no filtration or disinfection requirements – and virtually no international quality standards – exist for bottled water. And what about those plastic bottles left in a van under the sun or the snow? What about the degradation of the plastic of the bottles? In addition, while some bottled water comes from natural springs, part of the water it is possible to buy in the supermarket comes from a municipal supply.

4. Tap water in developed nations is transported from treatment works in underground pipes and requires much less embodied energy than the production, distribution and ‘disposal’ of bottled water.

5. The majority of bottled water is sold in PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. All PET bottles can be recycled. However, for 2007 it is estimated that 13bn plastic bottles of water were sold in the UK of which only 3bn were recycled. Therefore, most plastic bottles for bottled water are produced using a virgin petroleum feedstock. Petroleum is a non-renewable resource.

Today nearly 35% of PET plastic bottles in household waste are now collected for recycling. In 2001 it was 3%. Hence the majority of used water bottles are disposed of to landfill, which is not sustainable. Fewer are incinerated with some energy being recovered. Many ’discarded’ bottles become environmental pollution and can be found in hedgerows, parks, streams and rivers. Via rivers they can be transported to the open seas. They find their way to beaches, roadsides where they can take 450 to one thousand years to break down.

The Eastern Garbage Patch is an area 6 times the size of England, where plastic outweighs plankton by 6:1. It is the world’s largest waste dump. The Plastiki project is helping to change attitudes towards the world’s oceans, the whole idea of ‘waste’ and the increasingly unacceptable reality of pollution.

6. It can take up to seven litres of water to manufacture a single one litre volume PET bottle

7. 162g of oil are needed for a single one litre volume PET bottle. Bottling water accounts for approximately 2.5% of the world’s oil consumption; about 1.5 million barrels of oil per year, that is enough to power 100,000 cars for a year.

7. The production of a single 1 litre volume PET bottle release 100g of carbon dioxide (CO2).  The production of bottled water is as much as 2,000 times more energy intensive than tap water production.  Every year 22 million tonnes of bottled water are shipped from country to country. These journeys typically include boat, train and truck transport, racking up considerable water miles and carbon emissions.

If plastic bottles got frequent flyer miles, they’d be traveling business class for free, forever.

8. Some research has claimed that drinking ‘a bottle’ of water has the same impact on the environment as driving ‘a car’ for one kilometre

9. The UK bottled water industry has made some changes recently. PET plastic bottles have been redesigned so that they are 30% lighter than 15 years ago and increasing amounts of recycled plastic are used to manufacture the bottles themselves,but there is litter problem with many discarded PET bottles and other ‘waste’ plastics.

References:

BritishPlasticFederation. “PET Plastic bottles – facts not myths.” Retrieved 14.11.12, from http://www.bpf.co.uk/Sustainability/PET_Plastic_bottles_facts_not_myths.aspx.

EnvironmentalTechnologyCentre. “Should we be using bottled water.” Retrieved 14.11.12, from http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/etc/news-water.php.

Mocha. “Are You Spending 500 Times Too Much On Bottled Water?”. Retrieved 14.11.12, from http://blog.mocha.uk.com/bottled-water-tap-water/.

TapWater. “Tap water bottle.” Retrieved 14.11.12, from http://www.tapwater-bottle.com/tapwater.asp.

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