Bottled Water


  • Water is such a valuable resource that it has been referred to as 'liquid gold'. In recent decades bottled beverage companies have taken advantage of 'liquid gold' to increase profits by popularizing bottled water. They were able to do this by manufacturing consumer demand through strategic advertising campaigns intended to alter consumer's perceptions of tap water. An example is the infamous Fiji ad campaign which deterred consumers from drinking Cleveland city tap water. The city of Cleveland was outraged and tested both their water and Fiji water and found little difference in quality (5).
  • Globally this industry can be broken down into two categories:  in the industrial world bottled water is generally categorized as a luxury good, in the developing world it is often used as an avoidance expenditure to avoid contaminated water sources. 
  • Regardless of category, the manufactured demand has been so great that the global consumption of bottled water reached 41 billion gallons in 2004, up 57% from just 5 years earlier. Estimates place global bottled water sales between $50 and $100 billion annually, with the market expanding at an annual rate of 7% (3).
  • Worldwide bottled water sales are between $50 and $100 billion each year, with the market expanding at a rate of 7% (1).
  • The industry produces up wto 1.5 million tons of plastic each year (1) of which 38 billion a year are not recycled, which is equal to $1 billion worth of plastic (2) .
  • Regulation of the industry is directed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) while tap water is regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). This division of regulatory agencies creates dispartities between requirements of tap water and bottled water. For example, public water systems are required to test for chemical water contaminants four times as often as bottled water companies (3).





  • It takes 3.4 megajoules of energy to make a typical one-litre plastic bottle — or 850 million megajoules to bottle 250 million litres of water.
  • A barrel of oil has 6000 megajoules, so it takes 141,666 barrels of oil to make the PET plastic.
  • The energy required to bring bottled water to market — converting the PET plastic into bottles, bottling the water, transporting and refrigerating the bottled water — means the amount of oil required equals 20 per cent of the bottle's volume.
  • For 250 million litres of water, that equals 50 million litres of oil — 314,465 barrels of oil.
  • In addition to the water in bottles, twice as much water is used in the production process. Every litre sold represents three litres of water (4).
  • Transportation costs are another huge negative externality. Due to the fact we are shipping bottled water all over the world both from the source to the bottler and from the bottler to the consumer the transportation costs are enormous both in monetary and environmental terms. 


Recent News


  • The newest trend in the industry is the introduction of biodegradable bottles. There are two types of these: PLA which are plant based and ENSO which are not plant based. 
  • Although this sounds like a positive development, if these are recycled with PET bottles they can actually degrade the quality of the recycled plastic. Also if they are thrown away they will not be under the proper conditions to biodegrade. 
  • Simply reusing PET bottles is not a great option because the plastic is not meant to be reused and could degrade and contaminate water. 
  • Consumers are becoming more aware of the negative externalities and demanding change. The corporations are responding by creating bottles using less plastic. However, the best option seems to be switching over to bottles that are intended to be reused. 

  • Native Water uses ENSO biodegrable plastic
  • Biota Water uses PLA biodegrable plastic
  • The best option for consumers is to switch to bottles that are made to be reused!