Effects of the Bottled Water Industry by L.R.

With bottled water now exceeding the price of gasoline, the world’s obsession with it is at an all time high. With mass production and demand currently, caos is just around the corner as the effects of the industry are analyzed. The recent growth of the bottled water industry has developed major negative side effects in four main areas. These include danger to humans, financial strain, environmental waste, and immoral activity by both producers and consumers.

A recent study conducted by the National Resource Defence Council, measured contamination levels of water being sold in bottles,  The Huffington Post found higher levels than state health requires in this water. Thus making bottled water more dangerous to consume, than tap water in the United States. It has also been concluded that the plastic of the bottles is known to leach out toxic chemicals that can lead to cancer and reproductive issues. This in turn will lead to an economic uprise for expensive medical bills, plus the addition price of the bottled water. In most containers, after 10 weeks in storage, this process begins. Risks are increased greatly when the bottle is heated up as well. Consumers are therefore purchasing ticking time bombs, that could lead them down a road of illness. In blind taste tests the differences between bottled and tap water are almost indistinguishable, but tap water is guaranteed to not contain these toxic chemicals. Not only does the water itself cause harmful damage to people, but so does the pollution that entails its creation. The Huffington Post claims “pollution is estimated to be one of the biggest causes of death around the world, affecting more than 100 million people per year, more than epidemics like Malaria and HIV.” With such extreme statistics and information presented, it will remain a mystery as to why people continue to purchase bottled water.

When questioned about the bottled water industry a local Boulder citizen, Lisa Aweida, stated, “To me it is the biggest scam going, it has convinced people to buy something they don’t need at all”. Citizens of the United States have started to question the motives that bottled water industries have installed into our society’s recent norms. The price of this luxury good has soared to a point of no return. In the book Bottlemanie, Elizabeth Royte addresses the growth of this by saying, “U.S sales of bottled water leaped 170 percent between 1997 and 2006, from $4 billion to $10.8 billion. Globally, bottled water is a $60-billion-a-year business” ( 6). This growth exhibits behavior of an inelastic good, meaning the quantity demanded is not influenced by an increase in price. Royte continues her argument by stating, “Between 1990 and 1997, U.S. sales of bottled water shot from $115 million to $4 billion” (33).  In regards to price, bottled water is one of the most ridiculous commodities on the market today.  The Huffington Post admitted that “We complain incessantly about gas prices at $3.89 a gallon, but the same amount of San Pellegrino bottled water would cost close to $10.” With these prices, bottled water is 1,000 times the cost of tap water, making it one of the biggest rip offs in history.

Environmental impact, due to the creation and waste of bottled water is the most relevant issues society faces as a whole. An interviewed source spoke about her own personal thoughts by saying: “It incredibly wasteful, and creates huge amounts of waste and pollution” (Aweida). The Water project agreed with this statement and conducted multiple studies to produce factual information. The most shocking being, 1 in 5 bottles are recycled, it takes 1,000 years for a bottle to bio-degrade, and U.S. landfills currently hold 2 million tons of plastic bottles. Gracelink, another source, continued this argument by announcing that the bottled water industry has greatly contributed to climate change on a global scale. Numerous greenhouse gases play a key role in making and transporting the product, as well as the systems used to treat the water prior to packaging. In the United States, it is estimated that 17 million barrels of oil are used in producing the bottles, making it one of the major contributors to global warming. With temperatures rising, glaciers are melting at shocking rates. These glaciers provide one of the most substantial resources for freshwater on Earth. With this in mind, countless communities will soon have to find new sources to gain access to fresh water. These environmental issues that have recently been created will long outlive those whom birthed them. These responsibilities and troubles will be passed down for many future generations to come, thus responsible activities are crucial for our planet’s well-being for the years to come.

The moral issue of bottled water is one that if often overlooked. The incredible false advertising campaigns and ethical stance of this industry is a key aspect to its success. Without this, bottled water would not be sold at the mass level it is today. In Bottlemanie, advertising used to lure customers includes: “Drinking bottled water, like practising yoga and eating organic food, was a station on the way to enlightenment” (34). The public has been made to believe that bottled water helps fight obesity, cure acne, create happiness and suppress appetite, with celebrities like Madonna endorsing it as their latest “fashion accessory” ( 33). With so much temptation it is easy to blame this scam on producers alone. But consumers are still at fault when buying into this fad. Lisa Aweida put it best by saying, “We’ve done a lot of work in our country, the Environmental Protection Agency had made water in every state safe, and many countries around the world do not have this opportunity”. Consumers have thus allowed this ethical issue to drag on in their society. With so many people in the world living without clean water, is it not right for American’s to neglect their abilities to access clean water by continuing bottled water sales. The Univeristy of Burlington Vermont would say certainly agree. With so many students with strong opinions regarding the topic, the school has placed a ban on bottled water for their campus, affecting 14,000 students plus staff. This radio broadcast can be heard on the National Public Radio channel, as the debate continues. The school has stated that these actions are primarily for environmental and ethical reasons. Michaela McDonald, a student at UVM, analysis the school’s actions by saying the bottled water industry is a, “symbol of our culture’s obsession with “commodifying” things that should be public trust resources.” The forever lasting debate of whether water should be a source of profit or not will always be up in the air and mostly likely never decided on. Possible bans or taxations on bottled water have been explored throughout the world, but the time is nearly that these actions are critical and should be made more extreme.

With an ever growing population, the problems faced with bottled water are likely to grow even larger. Risking human health, over pricing, environmental pollution and unethical actions from both sellers and buyers, society must find an answer to these devastating matters. Communities and businesses must work together in a smart more efficient way to make this possible and reverse the effects of bottled water, before it is too late.


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