Think outside of the bottle

Question

I need a 900-word essay, MLA format. About bottled water and the effects, it is causing on the environment.

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The bottled water industry continues to bring about far-reaching negative effects on the environment. Very many plastic water bottles are being produced, which consumers often dispose of in ecologically harmful ways. According to a report released by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), the water bottling industry expends about 1.5 million tones of plastic that are used every year to bottle about 89 billion liters of water.

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The energy that is used up in the manufacturing process of bottled water plastic bottles causes a severe drain on scarce fossil fuels. The main reason why bottled water companies have contributed to significant strain on our environment is that the industry is unregulated. Even if the plastic bottles are reused in an effort to ease their negative environmental effects, it is unfortunate that this makes phthalate to be leached as the plastic bottles become older and older.

 One effect of bottled water is that transport costs involved are often very high. The existing regulations require that bottled water should maintain the same level of safety with tap water. For this reason, putting water in cans and then transporting it thousands of miles for use by people who have an equally viable option of using tap water is a misuse of natural resources.

            Today observes Raj, what the majority of water bottling companies sell to consumers is nothing more than bottled tap water (3015)! Therefore, the impurities that are found in tap water, such as chemical elements, are also found in bottled water as well. Therefore, bottled water does not guarantee you more safety. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the negative effects of bottled water on the environment.

            Although many reasons are often given to justify why people need bottled water, the reasons, upon close scrutiny, do not seem valid. For instance, players in the industry claim that bottled water meets more stringent quality standards compared to tap water. However, the exact opposite is true; tap water, in many countries including the U.S, has to meet measures that are more stringent compared to those that are imposed on bottled water companies.

            The scale of environmental pollution that is caused by water bottles is mind-boggling. The problem is more serious than many people think. Ferrier estimates that only one in every six water bottles is recycled, meaning that over eighty percent of all water bottles, equivalent to twenty-nine billion bottles, end up in compost pits, rivers, lakes, oceans and landfills (118). Although environmentalists encourage bottled water users to recycle their bottles, this does not solve the problem of the pollution that results from the use of these bottles, mainly because bottled water is often made for the wrong reasons in the first place. For this reason, the best way of recycling products is to avoid making them if it is possible for a country to do without them. Even after they are recycled, the water bottled end up in the environment, where they take decades to decompose.

            Additionally, the manufacture of bottled water adds to the rising amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting in additional pollution. Some of the long-term effects of the increase in atmospheric carbon include respiratory diseases, a rise in global temperatures and global warming. According to a study that was carried out at Oregon State University, Corvallis, factories all over the world are making use of 130 billion gallons of water and over 18 million barrels of oil every year in order to manufacture bottled water.  The facts included in the study are exclusive of other production-related activities such as sealing and packaging. This shows how significant the environmental impact of this industry really is.

The main concern about recycling plastic bottles relates to the effects of toxic chemicals. Some plastic bottles release toxic chemicals after being exposed to normal environmental conditions for a long time. A good example of these chemicals is bisphenol A, sometimes referred to as BPA. This chemical element occurs in polycarbonate, a plastic material that is used in the manufacture of plastic bottles. When a bottle made of this product warm or has cracks, BPA may easily leak, causing health problems if ingested.

Many studies have been carried out in order to determine how the ingestion of BPA affects one’s health. In 2006, scientists, in an article published in Scientific American, explained that there was an association between elevated BPA levels in the human body and the occurrence of heart attacks, coronary heart disease, angina, and type 2 diabetes. However, notes Raj, the study did not support that BPA caused any of the diseases since there was no evidence of proof to that effect (3016).  Canada has already banned any use of baby bottles with BPA while the U.S states of Maryland, California, Michigan, and Minnesota have followed in the footsteps of Canada.

            Environmentalists are concerned that the production of bottled water requires a very energy-intensive process, which is largely reliant on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are a renewable source of energy that has been blamed a lot for current global climate change. The matter of production of plastic bottles would be easy to handle were it not for the complications that arise when the viability of recycling programs for plastic bottles is being assessed. Despite calls for people to recycle bottles, few people bother to do so. This is because in most countries, recycling efforts are entirely voluntary.

The environmental concerns have led many experts to question whether bottled water is a necessity in the first place. According to recent studies, many manufacturers of bottled water do not get their water from natural and protected sources as they claim. Even if they do so, argues Gleick, the “spring water” may contain different natural contaminants as a result of percolating into the ground prior to bottling (45). In fact, as Burrows observes, when a comparison is made between treated municipal water and mineral water in terms of quality and taste, it is often difficult to reveal any differences (64).

Bottled water is categorized as food, and therefore regulation and testing are needed. Whenever this happens, different environmental concerns are often raised. In the U.S, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has had to set guidelines that bottled water manufacturers have to meet in order to minimize negative environmental effects as well as ensure safety standards are maintained for consumers’ benefit. One of these requirements is that their products have to be tested on a weekly basis for the presence of harmful contaminants. In countries where bottled water is not checked for potential harm, it becomes health as well as an environmental hazard. Such water may harm people, animals, and marine life.

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In conclusion, the manufacture of bottled water has many negative environmental effects. There is a need for people to recycle bottled water containers. There is also a need for stringent measures to be put in place to ensure that wasteful use of resources is avoided in the process of producing bottled water. Most importantly, research should be done to determine whether bottled water is really the best alternative to tap water or it is merely a wasteful use of natural resources.

Works Cited

Ferrier, Catherine “Bottled Water: Understanding a Social Phenomenon” A Journal of the Human Environment30(2) p. 118–119, 2001.

Gleick, Peter.The World’s Water. The Biennial Report on Freshwater Sources (2004-2005), New York: Island Press. 2004.

Burrows, Bruce. Bottled water station with removable reservoir, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Raj, Sean “Bottled Water: How Safe Is It?”Water Environment Research77(7) p. 3013-3018, 2005

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