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The Deceptive, Expensive Journey of Bottled Water


We’re about to take a little road trip. Well, actually, we’re about to take a very long road trip, as we follow a plastic water bottle through its life cycle. Spoiler alert—it doesn’t end well for anyone other than the bottled water industry.

deceptive journey of bottled water

Gulping Oil

Our first stop will be at an oil well, a statement that never bodes well for the environment. Polyethylene terephthalate plastic, or PET, is made from crude oil. At present the bottled water industry consumes over 17 million barrels of oil a year, and that’s just the raw material needed to make bottles. Transportation and factory power aren’t included.

Bottle Production

The crude oil is cleaned at an oil refinery, then transported to a plastic production plant. There the oil is transformed into plastic pellets, heated, and shaped into bottles. A year’s worth of bottles consumes over 16.4 billion gallons of water during production—about three times the amount of water the bottles will contain. In addition.

et. A single plastic bottle of water has often seen more of the world that the person who consumes it.

Along the way bottles may sit for days in hot environments, encouraging the release of endocrine-disrupting BPAs or phthalates into the water. PET bottles also release antimony, which causes depression and dizziness at small doses, and can kill at high levels.

Bought and Paid For

Each bottle of water will retail for at least $2.00 (artisanal tap water may cost more). The average American buys 167 bottles a year, costing him or her approximately $335 annually. In comparison, you can purchase a countertop water filtration system for less than a hundred dollars.

The bottle may not be consumed right away. It may languish in a hot car or sit for months in a pantry, all the while releasing chemicals into its contents ready for you to drink.

The Graveyard

Finally, the bottle is discarded. While theoretically recyclable, eighty percent of plastic bottles head straight for the nearest landfill or the surrounding environment. In the US, that tallies up to 38 billion bottles a year.

The twenty percent (or ten percent internationally) of plastic bottles that get recycled may be repurposed into fleece, carpet, or plastic furniture. Plastic cannot be recycled for food or drink purposes, due to health risks. While recycling plastic extends a bottle’s lifestyle, eventually the recycled item also winds up in the landfill, where it will take thousands of years to break down.

Bottled water generates $60 billion in sales revenues globally. The cost of cleaning up the resulting mess will make this look like pocket change. Drop out of the plastic journey—with a little planning you never need to buy another plastic bottle again.

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