What is the bottled water scam?

Forsaking the taps – the bottled water scam

We might fool ourselves into thinking that irrational behavior is always easy to observe. In truth, often the most irrational behavioural patterns are shrouded in habitualness and therefore easy to overlook and internalise.

Our society’s obsession with drinking bottled water is a behavioural paradigm so far removed from the rules of logic that it’s hard to imagine the idleness that brought us this far.

The problem essentially rests with our perceived sense of pre-eminence over the natural world. Environmental impacts are continuously devalued whenever they’re measured against human comfort and convenience. This has given way to our current epoch in which wastefulness beyond our means has become our modus operandi and nowhere is this better observed than in our taste for a more wasteful thirst.

Andrew Szasz, the author of the hard-hitting EcoPopulism, calls this type of self-centred consumerism ‘inverted quarantine’. So concerned are we with protecting ourselves from hypothetical toxins that we ignore the wider environmental implications.

As the environment then becomes toxic around us we are left unable to protect ourselves from a much more formidable threat, namely one that cannot be dodged through wearing a plastic coat of armor.

The environmental implications in the UK alone are staggering. It takes 62g of oil and seven litres of water to produce a single one litre reusable plastic bottle. This amounts to the release of 100g of CO2 per bottle we consume.
Worse still is our inability to effectively recycle these bottles. Out of the 3 billion litres of bottled water that Britain consumes per year, less than one quarter of the plastic receptacles get put into recycling.

The remaining three quarters end up in landfill. The decomposition time for plastic bottles widely vary; often between 400 to 1000 years. PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles however, our nations favourite, never bio-degrade.

It must also be stressed that the health concerns that drive some people to opt for plastic are a fallacy. In regards to water-borne toxins, bottled water has no in-built resistance once opened, whereas tap water has a strong disinfectant capacity.

The UK does in fact have one of the safest tap water supplies in the world. Tested by an independent inspectorate, our mains water supply continually meets World Health Organization safety standards at a 99.98 percent level of compliance.

Concerns over added fluoride levels in tap water are legitimate and indeed cause for concern, but a simple water filter can alleviate this problem. In the words of the leading expert on the UK’s water supply, Professor Younger: “there is every reason to prefer tap water to bottled water if health if your worry”.

Our bottled water industry is the great hoax of our time. We are sold a product to protect us from harm whilst at the same time inflicting immeasurable harm on the world we live in. The solution though, for once, is simple. Reuse your bottle and don’t forsake the humble tap.