Posted: March 20, 2014
In celebration of World Water Day (March 22), let’s dive into the Bottled Water vs. Tap Water Debate
Since the early nineties, Canadian consumption of bottled water has increased with over 1.5 billion litres of water produced annually. There are many reasons why one might choose bottled water over tap water, including the sheer convenience of being able to purchase a bottle of water through easily accessible vending machines, grocers, or cafeterias. Many also perceive bottled water as being a safer, healthier option over tap water. However, despite the convenience and safety debate on bottled water, one thing is clear: it is definitely not doing any favours for our planet.
Single use water bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a plastic that is derived from petroleum. The manufacturing process of these bottles requires a number of chemical compounds that are toxic for both humans and the environment, as there has been documented air emissions of toxins such as acetaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane which are considered group 2 human carcinogens. More energy is then required for treating the water that is being bottled as well as to fill, label and seal the bottles. Once the water has been bottled, it then needs to be transported from the plant to the market. Energy use and costs for transporting bottled water can be significant, especially when bottled water is being imported from exotic locations like Fiji (Fiji Water), France (Evian), or even New Zealand (Eternal). Bottled water is generally shipped from the source by container ships to Canadian ports and then dispersed throughout the country by rail. Some bottling industries operate in Canada, such as Nestle, where the product is usually transported by diesel truck. To put things into perspective, one study shows that the greenhouse gases generated by PET water bottles sold in British Columbia (manufacturing, filling, and transporting to market) are equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions generated from heating a typical Canadian home for the next 2,177 years.
After the bottle has reached the market, it is then purchased by consumers at prices up to 10,000 times the price of tap water. Canadians on average drink over 2 billion litres of bottled water annually. So what happens to all of those bottles? Although there are recycling programs that accept the PET bottles (plastic grade #1), unfortunately many still end up in the landfill where they will take hundreds of years to decompose. According to Stewardship Ontario, 44% of our plastic water bottles end up in the landfill every year, where all of the harmful chemicals that went into manufacturing the bottle will have an opportunity to leach into our environment.
So stop wasting your money on energy guzzling, toxin laden plastic water bottles and start drinking tap water! In Canada, tap water follows stringent regulations set out by the Federal Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality and is monitored closely by municipalities and provinces. Tap water in Toronto is checked for bacteria ever 4-6 hours! Together, we can reduce the number of bottles that end up in our landfills every year by investing in a reusable water bottle and filling up with tap water.