Bottled water is great because it is convenient, but convenience also comes at a cost. The cost isn’t reflected in the price of bottled water, but someone is covering the bill, and that is the environment. Bottled water has continued to become cheaper over the years. We can easily find bottled water for less than $1 in many places. High end brands may add a premium for “added value” and even then, it is not too expensive, but what are the real cost?
When calculating the true price of bottled water, we must consider many things beyond how much it cost to put the water in the bottle. One of the first factors to consider is the amount of oil used in production, and transportation. Oil is a non-renewable resource, meaning we have a limited supply. With the production and distribution of every bottle we come closer to the day we no longer have oil deposits. Just supplying Americans with plastic water bottles for one year consumes more than 17 million barrels of oil, that is about the amount of oil used in 1.3 million cars annually!
Another thing to consider when calculating the actual price of bottled water is its long-term effect on the environment. Plastic water bottles are considered single-use plastics. Single-use plastics are plastic products used only used once before they are thrown away or recycled. In America people are consuming nearly 50 billion bottles of water every year, and less than 25% are being recycled. That leaves about 37 billion plastic bottles in the trash where they end up in landfills or in the ocean. Even in landfills plastics takes more than 200 years to degrade, and as they break down, toxic substances are released into the soil and waterways and enter the food chain.
When bottles are not even properly thrown away, they end up in the environment, and the price to clean-up is high. Millions of dollars are spent annually to remove single-use plastics from the environment. California alone spends an estimated $25 million annually to landfill discarded plastics, and public agencies spend more than $500 million annually in litter cleanup.
When plastics are left in the environment, they can be detrimental to plants and wildlife. Impacts of marine debris have been reported for 663 marine wildlife species. For example, researchers have found that 50%-80% of dead sea turtles have ingested plastic.
These are just some of the things to consider when calculating the real price of a water bottle. There are many studies that suggest bottled water has affects on human health as well. When you begin to consider all these factors you begin to realize the cost of bottled water is a lot higher than we are paying. Is the convenience worth the long-term affect to our health and the environment? Is it sustainable to spend billions on clean ups around the world each year?
Its already proven that bottled water is more expensive, and isn’t healthier than tap water, so why do we continue to use them? We continue to pay the cost of each water bottle long after it has been thrown away. A simple solution to this problem is to switch to reusable water bottles and using home filtration systems. This will not only save the consumer money when purchasing water, but it will also reduce the price the environment is paying.