Dear Recyclebank: Why should I stop buying bottled water? –Susan M.
Dear Susan: We get it! For whatever reason, there’s something about those big packs of bottled water that somehow seem more convenient than filling a cup or reusable bottle with water from your sink. And sometimes — say, when you’re out and just need a drink — bottled water can even seem like the only option. However, the habit is worth breaking: Bottled water isn’t better for your health, but it is bad for your wallet, and it’s terrible for the environment.
Quick disclaimer before we dig deeper: Bottled water can be very valuable. If you live in an area with chronically contaminated water, such as Flint, MI, or if you are in a disaster area where the water supply has been temporarily contaminated, bottled water is a literal life-saver. Bottled water may also be necessary for health reasons if, as NRDC points out, you live in a rural area where, for example, pesticide runoff is a concern. For everyone else, bottled water is best avoided.
Bottled Water vs. Your Health
Bottled water isn’t better regulated than tap water.
The FDA, which oversees bottled water, and the EPA, which oversees tap water, regulate each to similar safety standards (note that the EPA does not regulate well water, which should be tested every year). In some places, tap water is actually required to be tested for some contaminants more often than bottled water.1
Plastic bottles can leach chemicals into your bottled water.
BPA had been a significant source of concern a few years back; now you’ll see that more bottled-water brands indicate that their bottles are BPA-free, which is a plus. However, there are other hormone-disruptors that can leach into your bottled water. One kind of hormone-disruptor, phthalates, can leach into bottled water in as little as 10 weeks.1
Bottled Water vs. Your Wallet
Bottled water is more expensive than tap water.
Water from the tap costs less than a penny per gallon. Even if your tap water cost as much as half a penny per gallon, it would cost you about $1.83 per year for all your required daily drinking water — and even if you were able to find bottled water for an exceedingly cheap $0.75 per gallon, it would cost you $136.88 for the same amount of water as what’d get from your tap for less than $2.
Water filters pay for themselves over time.
If your unsure about your tap water, “investing” in a water filter can help ease your concerns. You can find pitchers with built-in water filters on Amazon for under $30; using the same prices as above, this filter would pay for itself in less than 3 months. You could also go a fancier route, and install a built-in water filter under your sink, or choose a fridge with a built-in water filter.
Bottled Water vs. The Environment
Bottled water contributes to physical waste.
With bottled water, you get an enormous amount of, well, bottles. And for the last couple of years, the amount of plastic bottles being recycled keeps falling, which means more plastic bottles are going to the landfill — or the ocean, where they are damaging marine ecosystems — and represent a waste of the resources that went into making the bottle. Speaking of…
It takes more water to make a plastic bottle of water than goes in the bottle.
Yes. For example, Coca-Cola told Mother Jones in 2014 that it used 1.63 liters of water to produce every liter of water bottled. That’s quite a waste of water!
Now here’s a little tidbit to top it all off: A not insignificant amount of bottled water is just bottled municipal water anyway … AKA the same water you get from your tap.1
Ready to switch yet? We promise it doesn’t have to be hard. You can get filters for your tap water so you can feel more confident in the quality of the water from your sink, and then use glasses and reusable bottles (bonus: reusable bottles with measurements on them are a good way to make sure you’re drinking enough water each day!). Reusable bottles are the solution if you’re out running errands, too. It’s even possible to host a party without using bottled water — just fill up a few pitchers of water and dole out reusable cups. You can do it!