Forever in a landfill: Bottled water not just bad for environment

Forever in a landfill: Bottled water not just bad for environment September 29, 20091 Comment


Water – it makes up 70 percent of the planet. It also is important for our survival, even more than food. But toxins are threatening our water and our bodies, and one of those main sources of those toxins is plastic.

According to the Beverage Marketing Corp, the average American consumed 1.6 gallons of bottled water in 1976. In 2006, that number jumped to 28.3 gallons. On average, one person uses 166 disposable plastic water bottles each year.

With all this consuming, not many people know that bottled water is not as well regulated and studies have shown that it is not even particularly pure. In most first-world countries, the tap water is provided by a government utility and is tested regularly, according to Planet Green. Taste tests have shown that in many municipalities, tap water actually tastes better.

A four-year study of bottled water in the U.S. conducted by The Natural Resources Defense Council found that one-fifth of the 103 water products tested contained synthetic organic chemicals such as the neurotoxin xylene and the possible carcinogen and neurotoxin styrene, according to Planet Green.

In addition to the toxins, bottled water is more expensive per gallon than gasoline, it incurs a huge carbon footprint from its transportation, and the discarded bottles are a blight.

The disposable bottle

It starts with the disposable bottle themselves. The Earth Policy Institute reports that 1.5 million barrels of oil per year, which is enough to fuel 100,000 cars for that same year, are required to satisfy Americans’ demand for bottled water. That’s because PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, the plastic used in water bottles, is derived from crude oil. And, according to the Earth Policy Institute article “Bottled Water: Pouring Resources Down the Drain” by Emily Arnold and Janet Larsen, this oil is being used to make some 2.7 million tons of plastic each year for bottling water around the globe.

Many of these disposable plastic bottles sit forever in a landfill, because they are, in essence, indestructible. In the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California, there is a large pile of plastic floating, unable to decompose and threatens the life and survival of many plant and animal species on Earth. Recycling one ton of plastic saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space. More than 2.3 billion pounds of plastic bottles were recycled in 2007, and although the amount of plastic bottles recycled in the U.S. has grown every year since 1990, the actual recycling rate remains steady at around 24 percent.

Waste on the beach

The H2O effect

In the study by NRDC, it reviewed available information on bottled water and its sources, Food and Drug Administration regulations of bottled water, and government and academic bottled water testing results. The NRDC also commissioned independent lab testing of more than 1,000 bottles of 103 types of bottled water from many parts of the country.

In its report, the NRDC reveals that the FDA’s rules exempt 60 to 70 percent of the bottled water sold in the United States from the agency’s bottled water standards “because FDA says its rules do not apply to water packaged and sold within the same state.” Because almost 40 states say they do regulate such waters even though they have few resources or policies to do so, this is a significant omission. And “even when bottled waters are covered by FDA’s specific bottled water standards, those rules are weaker in many ways than EPA rules that apply to big city tap water.”

The NRDC study generated alarming results: “Approximately one-third of the tested waters (34 of 103 waters, or 33 percent) violated an enforceable state standard or exceeded microbiological-purity guidelines, or both, in at least one sample.”

Also, it is being tested by many different labs if plastic bottles leak bisphenol A, or BPA.

BPA is a fundamental part, a building block of plastic’s and plastic additives’ composition.It’s most common form is polycarbonated plastic. Polycarbonate plastic, which is clear and nearly shatter-proof, is used to make a variety of common products including baby and water bottles, sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental fillings and sealants, eyeglass lenses, CDs and DVDs, and household electronics.Epoxy resins containing BPA are used as coatings on the inside of almost all food and beverage cans.

What is scary to note is BPA also is a precursor to the flame retardant, tetrabromobisphenol A, and was formerly used as a fungicide.

Studies have been done throughout the years, and it has been found that BPA is an endocrine disruptor, which can mimic the body’s own hormones and may lead to negative health effects if the dosage is high. At the moment, national and world regulatory bodies have determined safety levels for humans, but those safety levels are currently being questioned as a result of new scientific studies.

Be proactive

Try using a Nalgene bottle, right, instead of buying a 24 pack of bottled water.
Try using a Nalgene bottle, right, instead of buying a 24 pack of bottled water.

To help reduce the amount of waste disposable water bottles contribute to landfills each year, consumers are taking the Filter For Good pledge and are committing to stop drinking bottled water for a week, a month, a year or forever., where consumers can pledge to give up toxic disposable plastic bottles, compares what the pledge can do that if everyone in New York City were to use a reusable water bottle for one week, for one month, or for one year it would make a significant difference in reducing waste: One week – 24 million bottles saved One month – 112 million bottles saved One year – 1.328 billion bottles saved.

Also, by drinking out of a BPA-free bottle that is yours alone, you can prevent the toxin from leaching more into your system, as scientists are continuing to research the harmful effects.

If you want to carry your water with you, get a bottle and fill it. There are many places and brands consumers can rely on, including Kleen Kanteen, Nalgene and Sigg. Many Websites sell these brands, and grocery stores and others may also carry them. After the recent BPA scare, many off-brands have labeled if their bottles are safe, usually stating it’s “BPA free,” so now there is less worry about some bottles if you do not want to spend a lot of money.

If your water at home tastes funny, try an activated charcoal or ceramic filter. Whether you want something to attach to your faucet or in the refrigerator, only to cost you $20 or more than $100, you have many options. A simple Google can provide many brands and links, but the most popular ones seem to be Pur and Brita.

Plastic pollutes