HEALTH

6 Dirty Truths About Drinking Bottled Water I Bet You Didn’t Know

In today’s grab-&-go culture, bottled water not only serves as a necessary accessory for jetting between yoga, spin and zumba class paired with the latest Lululemon outfit, it has become the essential icon of a healthy lifestyle. Bottled water is healthy water – at least that’s what marketers tell us. Nothing beats gulping down an icy cold bottle of pure spring water sourced from the majestic mineral-rich alpine peaks of Switzerland after a hot and sweaty workout. But what do we do with the bottle? Unfortunately, our need for bottled water on-the-go stems from many years of great corporate marketing. And quite unnecessary. Here are 6 dirty truths about drinking bottled water.

Dirty Truth #1: Bottled Water Increases Garbage Load.
Even for a recycling-friendly country like the US, only about 15% of plastic water bottles are recycled every year. Compared to countries like Canada and Germany, Singaporeans are dismal at recycling (read more Are Singapore’s Ready to Pay-For-Plastic Bags?). Just look at this photo I took this morning. There was a pair of old shoes on top of the recycling bin. The bin clearly states for paper, glass and plastic only. Unless they are Cinderella’s glass slipper (which clearly it is not), we are definitely not recycle-smart.

If we continue to support the bottled water industry by purchasing bottled water, we will inevitably continue to fill our incinerators with unnecessary garbage, release more carbon and toxic chemicals into our atmosphere, and further tax our already limited landfill areas. All this time, bottled water companies will continue to prosper.

Dirty Truth #2: Massive Strain On Resources.
The amount of crude oil  needed to make plastic water bottles and transport them is enormous. In the US alone, production of plastic (PET or polyethylene) bottles to meet market demand for bottled water is equivalent to almost 17.6 million barrels of crude oil (excluding transportation). This equals to the same amount of oil needed to fuel more than one million vehicles in the US each year! Let’s put it another way: it takes nearly 7x of water in the bottle to make the plastic bottle itself!

Dirty Truth #3: Bottled Water Serves Corporations.
When you buy bottled water, you are contributing to the profits of the bottled water corporations. Period. This supports the privatization of water and financially discourages public infrastructure. When such  privatization occurs in countries, access to water (bottled or not) is viewed as a luxury and not a basic human right. On the other hand, when people from developed countries drink safe and clean tap water, they are putting money back into the government’s hands (not the corporation’s). Governments are, in turn, encouraged by nation duty to ensure proper infrastructure, strict regulations and sound policies are in place to continue delivering clean water to its people.

Dirty Truth #4: Bottled Water is Really Expensive.
Bottled water is expensive. Not just on the sourcing, transportation and bottling of water, it is also expensive to buy. One litre of bottled mineral water can set you back S$10 or more. According to the Institute of Medicine, the adequate intake of water for women is 2.2 litres per day and 3 litres per day for men. That’s at least S$20-S$30 on bottled water per person, and over S$7,000 per person per year. You can go on nice vacation with that kind of savings.

Dirty Truth #5: Bottled Water is Less Regulated.
Bottled water companies spend billions of dollars to convince consumers that bottled water is healthier, safer, fresher and better than normal tap water. The reality is – it is not entirely true. In fact, tap water in developed countries like Singapore, UK and the US are highly regulated by the government. They are subject to strict and rigorous water testing requirements for bacteria and chemical contaminants. Bottled water, on the other hand, is corporatized – falling under the watch of the Food & Drug Administration which are less regulated than the government municipalities.

Dirty Truths #6: Not All Bottled Water is Created Equal.
Did you know that as much as 40% of bottled water in the US is actually just filtered tap water? For the die-hard water connoisseurs, they claim that bottled water taste better than normal tap water, making it hard to break the habit of drinking bottled water. But did you know that many research and surveys have shown that blind taste tests prove otherwise on most people? Why? In 2009, a report by Food and Water Watch found that almost half of all bottled water is actually derived from public water source ie. tap water. Big and popular bottled water brands such as Pepsi’s Aquafina (with over 13% of the bottled water market), Coca-Cola’s Dasani and Nestle’s Pure Life were forced to change their bottles’ labeling to clearly state where their water comes from. Yup, public water resources.

Aquafina

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