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Hard to Swallow: How Bottled Water Uses Excess Energy, Pollutes the Environment and Harms Our Bodies
Impact, Water April 1, 2024

Annual global bottled water consumption is estimated to have reached 118 billion gallons in 2023. That’s equivalent to 1 million bottles per minute. Americans alone use approximately 1,500 plastic bottles of water every second. 

For people who have ​​access to clean, safe drinking water, it can be virtually free. In the U.S., tap water costs less than a penny per gallon on average, with bottled water costing about 3,000% more per gallon than tap. Even so, the consumption of bottled water continues to grow, outpacing sales of milk and beer in the U.S., and second only to soft drinks.

Energy Required to Produce Bottled Water

Producing bottled water requires 2,000 times more energy than producing tap water. Additionally, the complete lifecycle of bottled water utilizes fossil fuels, contributing to global warming and causing pollution. 

Remarkably, it takes more than 17 million barrels of oil to produce enough plastic water bottles to meet America’s annual demand for bottled water and 86 percent of those plastic bottles become garbage or litter. 

Global Pollution from Plastic Water Bottles

It’s estimated that approximately 0.5% of all plastic pollution ends up in our oceans. If our current rate of pollution continues, experts predict that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. And worldwide, 95% of the plastics produced in 2022 didn’t get recycled. 

How Microplastics Harm Our Health

Even more alarming, recent studies show that bottled water contains excessive levels of microplastics and nanoplastics (plastic fragments with dimensions less than a millimeter). And when those plastic bottles disintegrate, micro and nanoplastics are released into the environment, contributing to the pollution crisis, and have even been found in the human body.

Recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine’ describes the disturbing ways they are harming our bodies. Individuals with microplastics present in their hearts face an elevated risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death.

The best way to cut down on plastic waste is to stop making it in the first place, given that recycling rates are declining and recycling, in general, is not a sustainable solution for the amount of plastics being produced.

What You Can Do

EARTHDAY.ORG is committed to ending plastics for the sake of human and planetary health. The organization is demanding a 60% reduction in the production of all plastics by 2040 with the ultimate goal of building a plastic-free future for generations to come. The theme for this year’s Earth Day on April 22 is Planet vs. Plastics and features many ways to educate yourself, get involved, and take action.

Encouragingly, several recent scientific breakthroughs are helping address this pressing environmental issue by collecting and preventing plastic pollution. In fact, researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have developed a variant of an enzyme that can chew up and break down plastics in just a few hours.

So what does this all mean for those of us who have access to clean drinking water and simply want to stay hydrated? Think before you drink –– and invest in a water filter and reusable bottle!

Learn more about Earth Day 2024 and join the movement to end plastics @ EarthDay.Org


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