9/17/2015 — Just as if they were selling ice in the Arctic or sand in the Sahara, profit-oriented companies have convinced Americans there’s something wrong with tap water. So consumers are quenching their thirst with bottled water, and are recycling only about a third of the empty plastic bottles.
This, in turn, is adding to the avalanche of plastic garbage that’s landing in the earth’s oceans every year. How much plastic garbage? According to UGA environmental scientist Jenna Jambeck, we throw away 800 million tons of plastic annually, or five grocery store sacks of plastic for every foot of the world’s coastline.
Not only does bottled water produce waste, but bottling it also uses lots of water. In 2006, it took three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water, according to the Pacific Institute.
The average American drinks about 35 gallons of bottled water per year, which comes out to about 270 plastic bottles. At this rate, in a couple of years Americans will be drinking more water than soft drinks.
Why is this happening in America, a country with one of the world’s most reliable municipal water systems delivering high-quality water to homes nationwide? The bottled water industry spends millions touting the benefits of bottled water.
The message is that to be youthful, healthy, sexy and cool, you should grab a cold bottle of water, not one of those sugary sodas.
It’s working: sales of bottled water, some 9.7 billion gallons, were $11.8 billion in 2012, according to Business Insider. Bottled water was about $1.22/gallon nationwide, or 300 times what a gallon of tap water costs. But in the U.S. two-thirds of all water in bottles is sold as single 500 ml bottles, for which the cost averages $7.50 a gallon—twice as expensive as gasoline and 2,000 times more expensive than tap water.
In a future story we'll talk about the effects of bottled water and plastic bottles on human health.
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