The real cost of plastic water bottles
Bottled water companies are clever. Crystal-clear, natural-looking springs, lush greenery and striking flowers dominate their advertising. Endorsements from world-class athletes and admired personalities add further to the belief that by drinking bottled water you are cleansing and hydrating your body with the closest thing to perfection the mortal world can provide.
This is all an illusion! Yes, water is good for you and, yes, you need to drink a decent amount of it, especially in this heat, but it should not come out of a bottle, especially a plastic one.
The manufactured belief that tap water is harmful and only bottled water is safe doesn’t just waste your money, but in the case of plastic water bottles presents a health hazard to you, personally, and damages the environment.
Plastic isn’t just a scourge on our land and seas; plastic pollutes people, too. It’s in the food we eat and the air we breathe, and it is even found in the actual bottled water itself.
In 2018, a study by Sherri Mason, PhD, director of sustainability at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, analysed samples from 259 bottled waters. Ninety-three per cent of them contained microplastic particles with an average of 325 microplastic particles per litre. The brands tested included household names such as Nestlé Pure Life, Aquafina, Dasani, Evian and San Pellegrino.
If left in the sun or a warm car, chemicals from the plastic bottle itself can also leach into the water you’re about to drink. When you buy a plastic bottle of water, it may come from a fridge or a cool shelf, but there is no guarantee it has been kept at the right temperature throughout its life cycle.
Why is this bad? It is bad because chemicals found in plastic have been linked to cancer, diabetes, infertility and behavioural issues in children.
In both their manufacture and disposal, plastic water bottles are also contributing to the destruction of the planet we are leaving for our children and grandchildren. Plastic litter is everywhere. It can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade and, if burnt, releases dangerous toxins into the environment.
Manufacturing plastic water bottles requires about three times more water per bottle than there is in the container. Millions of barrels of oil are used in the production of plastic bottles, and on top of all that you have the greenhouse-gas emissions pumped out during the transportation and refrigeration process.
All of that environmental damage for a product you can otherwise get by simply turning on the tap at home. Even sparkling water can be easily made at home with a simple device such as a SodaStream or seltzer bottle.
We appreciate that many of us resort to bottled water because of the way Bermuda collects rainwater. But, if you are worried about the quality of your tank water, you can get it tested by the Environmental Health Department for only $34. Katie Berry did this recently and discovered that not only was her tank water safe to drink, but it was more alkaline than bought bottled water, which is specifically marketed as being alkaline!
If your water is not up to scratch, the department provides helpful advice on how to clean it up.
We also appreciate that while bottled water costs money, so does roof and tank cleaning. However, what costs more in the longer run?
For further peace of mind, you could also try water filter jugs, which easily fit into a fridge, are long-lasting and are readily available in Bermuda stores. If you have the space, you could invest in a water cooler. There are also point-of-use or whole-house water filtration systems available. Then you just fill up your reusable water bottle — stainless steel ones are easy to clean and last for years — and off you go.
If you run out while out and about, look for a rehydration station. If you can’t find one, ask a restaurant or a shop if they would mind filling up your bottle for you. No one has turned us down yet.
Easy access to clean drinking water should be a basic human right, and if you really care about the quality of the liquid you put in your bodies, don’t waste your hard-earned income or risk your health by drinking from a plastic water bottle.
• Erich Hetzel is a local environmentalist and member of Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce
• Katie Berry is local environmentalist and Beyond Plastic champion
• Beyond Plastic Bermuda is a joint campaign by Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce, Keep Bermuda Beautiful and environmental advocates to educate and help our island move away from plastic. For more information, please contact us at email@example.com