E-commerce and Drinking Water


 E-commerce and Drinking Water

Ever since the bottled water industry came about in the US, Americans have been consuming over 1.6 billion bottles of water each day. In 2010 alone, the U.S. spent $17 billion on bottled water – which is just 5 percent of what they spend on food beverage items each year!

But what does that mean for our planet? Well, 22% of used bottles end up in landfills, and while some are recycled into new materials such as concrete or carpet padding, many are not and end up polluting our landfills and our oceans with plastic waste.

There are other costs and consequences to bottled water that we really need to think about as consumers. The most significant being the fact that Americans pay up to 1,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than for tap water or filtered tap water.

In addition, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, bottled water is actually less regulated than tap water is! Why? Because it's considered a food item – not a beverage. In fact, according to Beverage Marketing: "Bottled water . . . is regulated by the FDA as a food product under the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). Unlike tap water, which is regulated by the EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), bottled water does not have to comply with the EPA's regulations for safe drinking water quality."

For example, in 2001 it was determined that about 38 million bottles of water from Poland Spring had been contaminated with a dangerous bacteria – and yet, no one knew about this contaminant until an independent lab discovered it. This is not an isolated incident either – as a 2009 NRDC report determined: "Since 2000, there have been more than 200 bottled water contamination incidents reported to federal drinking water databases. These include incidents related to bacterial contamination, pesticide contamination, toxin contamination and other contaminants."

In addition to the risks posed by this unregulated product, packaged water can be contaminated as well. For instance, in a 2011 ActionAid America Study conducted in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, it was found that "40% of bottled water tested contained arsenic."

Bottled Water – And The Trade-Offs We're Making

Now let's think about this question from a different angle. Why are we willing to spend so much money on bottled water when we could get it cheaper and in a safer form from our taps?

The bottled water industry has been so successful because of our cultural perceptions of what water should be like. Our tap water is not able to match that level of purity, so in order to have the kind of "pure" experience that's being sold to us, we turn to these expensive alternatives.


When it comes down to it, we're not really paying much attention to what's really going on with bottled water. The evidence is everywhere, but our cultural conditioning tells us that bottled water is not only better than tap water, but also "healthier." But when we look at the actual facts and figures ourselves – things like the fact that Americans drink about 3.5 gallons of bottled water each year – it may be time for us to reevaluate our buying habits and the environmental impact of bottled water.

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