Earlier this year San Francisco joined Concord, Massachusetts, as the second city in the United States to ban the sale of bottled water within the city limits. Environmental concerns, along with news reports of chemicals leaching out of the bottles, are becoming common discussions now.
It is still shocking to think that packaging and marketing have turned bottled water into a multi-billion dollar industry. In the 20th century, bottled water was limited to luxury import brands such as Evian or Perrier. Today there are hundreds of bottled water brands, with two of the most popular owned by beverage giants Coca Cola and Pepsi. How did we get to this point?
Everything started to change in 1989 with what some called a technological innovation, polyethylene terephthalate plastic (PET), which is now the primary plastic used for water bottles. Before PET, water bottles were made with polyvinyl chloride plastic, which is heavy, expensive and dull. PET immediately became a more attractive packaging material because it is lightweight, inexpensive and cheap.
Once Coke introduced Dasani and Pepsi introduced Aquafina, everything changed. Their heavy distribution markets were already in place so they easily sold bottled water to stores and restaurants that were already selling their products. Furthermore, their large advertising budgets got a lot of exposure for their brands.
Twenty years ago, bottled water was packaged in large jugs or coolers and used as an alternative home water source. Single-serve plastic bottles allowed people to carry them wherever they go, a huge convenience factor that hadn’t existed before. Thanks to marketing, packaging and convenience, today bottled water sales surpass beer and milk sales in the U.S.
Ninety-three percent of Canadian households have access to a recycling program and 97% of these homes utilize at least one of their available programs. Although many plastic bottles are being recycled, there is still a large amount of plastic waste collected from public trash receptacles. This means that individuals who are “on the go” are more likely to toss their empty water bottles into nearby trash cans rather than bringing them home to recycle or find a bin that is collecting plastic. Carrying a refillable water bottle can help combat this issue.
The popularity of the bottled water industry focuses mostly on convenience. We want to keep up with the recommended daily amount of water and the easiest way to do that is to carry a bottle of water with us. When water is available in our homes (and for the most part, free), why wouldn’t we take advantage of it? Purchase a water bottle that you can fill up before you head out to run errands and refill it when necessary. Your commitment to ditching the plastic bottle will save you money in the long run and help with pollution as well.
Let us know in the comments if you’re committed to ditching the plastic and how many bottles you might save by doing so. We would love to hear your stories.