Friday, April 11, 2008
But, as my wise mom has been asking herself, what’s up with all these bottles? Why have crowds of us become convinced that we shouldn’t drink the tap water?
There are some places in the world where it is unsafe to drink what comes out of the faucet. I certainly do not live in one of those places. My water is just fine. It tastes a little funny to me sometimes, but I think it’s at least partly because I’m expecting it to not be as delicious as that prettily packaged, well marketed stuff that I pay a whole lot more for. Let me remind myself once again, that just because there’s a picture of a mountain lake does not mean that’s where the water comes from. It could just as well be municipal water from anywhere on the planet.
The cost of transporting the water from the bottling plant to the store is tremendous. Then there’s the waste. The caps are often not recyclable at all, and the “recycling” of plastic bottles is really better described as “downcycling” – it’s not the same as recycling a glass bottle, which can be made into another glass bottle. Plastic degrades as it is recycled, and therefore a plastic bottle cannot be used to make a new plastic bottle…that requires new plastic. That's assuming that the bottles even get recycled in the first place, which most aren't according to this article from MSN. Plus there’s a label on each bottle, and the cardboard tray that the bottles sit in together, and the plastic wrapped around all of that…all this for something we can get by turning the kitchen faucet!
Most of us have heard something about plastics being not so great for our health either. Read more here if you want to get all the nasty details about the possible health problems resulting from excess plastic use.
Let’s not forget to look at the financial side of all of this. California is one of the three states that requires a deposit on plastic bottles. I always recycle, but using my curbside bin, not by returning them to the store. So I pay 5 cents extra for every bottle of water I buy. According to one source, the average American drinks 210 half liter bottles of water each year - that's $10.50 just in deposits! As far as the cost of the water itself, the stuff from the tap is significantly cheaper than the stuff I used to buy in the store. So much cheaper that it is basically free in comparison. What’s not cheaper is the bottle to carry it around in.
Alternatives to plastic water bottles are limited. I suppose I could carry around a glass jar that I reuse, but that seems potentially dangerous and messy. The other option I’ve found is aluminum bottles. Sigg is currently the accessory du jour for those who are hip to the problems of plastics, but the company has actually been around for over 100 years. The bottles are pricey, but they should last virtually forever, according to information on their website. Plus there’s the sort of invaluable health benefit of 0% leaching of chemicals from the bottle to your drinks. I like the fact that you can buy a replacement cap if you break or lose yours, and not have to replace the entire bottle. They’ve also not neglected to appeal to our desire for pretty packaging and have a huge variety of designs to choose from (you can even mix and match the caps and the bottles!). When buy nothing month is up, I’m going to think about this one here.
The one concern I have to research a bit more here is the cleaning tablets and brush that you are encouraged to buy (more packaging; plus, what goes in to those cleaning tablets?). It seems from the sites FAQs that this extra purchase is probably not necessary.
So another rule is born...no more plastic water bottles!