Argumentative Essay

Better than tap? How bad is using bottled water on the environment?

Summer Term 2012

Here is a writing sample of an argumentative essay I wrote a couple terms back in WR 115.  I believe that my writing has come a long way since then.

This is the piece I will be using for week 5 scholarly discourse assignment.

Here is a link to a scholarly journal article.

http://0-search.ebscohost.com.library.lanecc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=23207475&site=ehost-live

Here is a link to a scientific blog on the subject.

http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2008/06/do_you_drink_bottled_water.php

The Essence of Life

The sun was setting in the desert evening sky.  I was so thirsty.  I had run out of water an hour ago, and nearly everybody else on my crew was out or running dangerously low on life’s elixir.  The 110 degree Nevadan desert heat had sapped the fluids from my body like a food dehydrator does to food.  We finally reached our vehicles.  I jumped into the nearest truck’s bed reached into the cooler, and I grabbed a bottle of water. I cracked the seal, threw my head back, and promptly chugged half the bottle. So refreshing I thought to myself as I began throwing bottles of water to other crew members.  I was accustomed to drinking bottled water when I was out fighting fires.  Finishing the bottle I reached over and put it into the trash bag.

This is what happens to the majority of the single use bottles of water after they are empty.  The bottled water market has exploded over the last decade.  We can go into any store, market, deli, or restaurant in America and buy a bottle of water of one variety or another.  Do we really need this much bottled water?  We should not drink bottled water out of convenience, because of the economic and environmental repercussions.

A large amount of bottled water is just municipal water.  The municipal tap water is then processed and bottled by the distributor.  In fact, Aquafina and Dasani, which are two of the

biggest bottling companies and are owned by Pepsi and Coke, are merely treated municipal water. “In 2006, 44 percent of the bottled water sold in the United States came from municipal supplies and was labeled drinking water or purified water,” Royte says in her book Bottlemania (38).

So why are we paying such a high premium for this tap water which up to thousands of times the cost of average tap water, depending on the brand? According to Drop the Prop,  “Americans spend over $15 billion each year on bottled water […] World-wide the bottled water market is $50 billion,” the site says in its bottled water statistic page (1-2).  I once thought that I was paying this premium for bottled water because I was getting a purer, tastier, and safer water to drink. While it may taste better then tap water it may not be either purer or safer.

The purity and safety of bottled water compared to municipal tap water raises some big questions with me as well as others.  We often see bottled water label designs with mountain springs and glaciers on them.  This conveys that the water comes from a pristine source when in fact it may not.  However, there are regulations preventing companies from labeling the contents spring or glacial water if it is indeed not.  Water from municipal water sources must be labeled as such unless it has been treated or purified.  This is one way bottled water companies mislead consumers.  They take municipal water and treat it through reverse osmosis or distillation and in doing so they don’t have to tell us that it’s just basically filtered tap water (Naidenko 1-5).

Bottled water that is sold in the state that produced it is not regulated by the FDA, but bottled water that is sold out of state is.  So you can imagine many smaller companies only sell their water in state.  In doing so, they are only subject to state regulations, and often states do not have the manpower to adequately regulate them.  The FDA regulates some bottled water and

individual states regulate some bottled water.  The EPA regulates tap water and has much higher restrictions than does the FDA or state regulations on bottled water.  Bottled water companies do not have to report violations to state officials or the FDA.  Consumers also have yearly reports available to them on their municipal tap water.  Most bottled water companies do not have to make this information available either.  California is the only U.S. state that is required by state law to do so (GAO-09-610 8-9, 14-17).

Shouldn’t we be privileged to the information of what contaminates are in the bottled water we drink?  We are allowed access to the information of what’s in our city’s municipal water supply so why not the same with bottled water?  I know I want to know what chemicals and bacterial organisms are in the water I’m drinking.  Chemicals such as arsenic, chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane, and DEHP all of which are cancer causing contaminates.  Bacteria’s such as coliform and giardia.   These can be an indicator of fecal matter in the water supply.  E. coli is one such coliform bacteria that is harmful to humans.  Those are just some of the contaminates found in bottled water (Olson 1).

All these contaminates are also found in municipal water supplies, but at least the information of what is in the water is there, if we want it.

These days there are a lot of people that are living green and trying to reduce their carbon footprint.  This brings up the question about where are all these empty water bottles going when they are empty and no longer being used?  The fact is that most water bottles used in the United States are discarded and not recycled.  An estimated 50 billion single-serve water bottles were drunk in the United States alone in 2007 (Royte 42).  So what happens to all those bottles?  Some

estimates say that up to 80% of those 50 billion bottles go into our landfills.  Some say it’s closer to 70%.  Either way that’s an awful lot of plastic bottles going into the local landfills.

On top of all the plastic waste produced by people choosing to drink bottled water there are other ways in that bottled water can be damaging the earth.  According to the Pacific Institute the manufacturing companies that produce the bottles used to bottle the water use millions of barrels of oil each year (Pacific Institute).  The amount of energy needed to make the plastic material, to fabricate bottles from material, process the water, fill and seal the bottle, transport the bottled water, and chill it for use is thousands of times more than used to produce municipal tap water (Pacific Institute).

Bottled water companies are starting to feel the public pressure.  The pressure from environmental conscientious people around the world has started to cause changes in the bottled market industry.  Some companies are starting to change their way.  They are trying to lessen their carbon footprints.  Nestle made one of the biggest changes in past years.  Elizabeth Royte writes in her book Bottlemania:

Nestle shrinks its cardboard packaging, reduces the weight of its bottles from 15 to 12.5 grams of plastic, cuts the area of its paper labels by 30 percent, inaugurates a recycling program at the New York Marathon, starts pushing a variety of stakeholders to develop a comprehensive redemption system for plastic packaging, slashes water use to the lowest in the industry, and converts sixty-four tanker trucks to run on a biodiesel mixture made from rendered animal fat and soy. The switch will reduce the fleet’s carbon emissions by more than 1.8 million pounds per year (159).

All bottled water companies should be doing these kinds of things.

Some people say that they bottled water because it tastes better than their municipal water or that their tap water has high levels of certain contaminates in it and they don’t want it to affect

their health in a negative way.  Some people’s water that comes from their tap may taste bad or have harmful chemicals in it, but most of the time that can be fixed with a simple filtration system.  Either by buying a water pitcher with a carbon filter in it or by buying a filter that connects to the tap.  You can even buy a whole house filtration system.  Both of these fixes are far cheaper and safer to the environment than buying bottled water.

Some people say that buying all these filters is just as bad on the environment as throwing the empty bottles away.  This is not the case.  Most of these pitcher and tap filtrations systems will filter 300 hundred bottles of water or more before they need a new filter. So what is worse 300 bottles or one filter? I think that is pretty obvious.  The energy needed to produce the 300 bottles and fill them with water is far more than the energy needed to produce that one filter.  That one filter also has far less plastic in it than does 300 bottles.

Some people say that they buy bottled water because they are always on the go and they can’t filter their water all the time.  I used to be guilty of this also, and I used to buy bottled water when I was busy with my day to day activities.  There are portable water bottles available with filters in them, or you can filter your water at home, and then bottle it and take it with you. How hard is it to buy a filtration system and fill up a few bottles of water to take to work or to our other daily activities that we have on our agendas?  It is both cheaper and better for our environment.

I do feel, as do others, that there are times when bottled water is essential.  Disasters are times when bottled water is very crucial to some people’s survival.  Floods can leave people without any access to clean water and if it were not for bottled water people might die.  Hurricanes, such as Katrina, can also leave people without any clean water available to them.

Other disasters can leave people separated from their homes and sources of water, and bottled water is also crucial to firefighter out fighting forest fires.  However, during these disasters the government should do something to see that the empty bottles get recycled.  I was involved in hurricane Katrina’s cleanup, the space shuttle disaster, and countless wildfire suppressions and I personally watched most of those water bottles get thrown in the trash.

There are needs in foreign countries for clean water.  Some countries have polluted their water sources so bad that they do not have clean water available to them.  Other countries may not have water available to them because of the climate that they live in or their water sources have dried up.  Right now, in a town in Texas they turned off the water because the record heat and drought has dried up their town’s water supply.

All of these are appropriate uses for bottled water, but not just for our convenience.

We can reduce our individual daily expenses by reducing or eliminating the bottled water that we buy.  These days, in the struggling economy, every little bit helps. Bottled water is not really much safer than your average municipal tap water, and if taste or contaminates are an issue people should filter and bottle their own water.  We as a society are starting to lean toward the green, as in being eco-friendly, so by cutting down on our bottled water intake we can cut down on the energy used, the amount of carbon dioxide produced, and the amount of plastic we are polluting our environment with.   We should not be destroying our environment just because bottled water is convenient for us to have when we are “on the go.”

Works Cited

Drop the Prop. “Bottled Water Statistics.” drop the prop.info.com. n.p., 7 May 2007. Web. 1 Aug. 2011.

Naidenko, Olga. “Bottled Water Quality Investigation.” ewg.org. 1-5, October 2008. Web. 1 Aug. 2011

Olson, Erik D. Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype. Apr. 1999. Print

Pacific Institute.  ”Pacific Institute- Bottled Water Fact Sheet.pacinst.org. n.p., 2008. Web. 1 Aug. 2011.

Royte, Elizabeth. Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2008. Print

Stevenson, John B. GAO-09-610 Bottled Water. Jun. 2009. Print.

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