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Bottled water taxing Earth
It may reportedly lead to a healthier body and mind but our increasing fondness for drinking bottled water could be having an adverse effect on the planet.
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2006 06:06 GMT
Consumption is ironically leading to water shortages in some areas
It may reportedly lead to a healthier body and mind but our increasing fondness for drinking bottled water could be having an adverse effect on the planet.

A new study published in the US says that bottled water consumption has more than doubled globally in the last six years and is heavily taxing the world's ecosystem.

Emily Arnold, the author of the report published by the Washington-based environmental group the Earth Policy Institute, says bottled water can cost 10,000 times more than tap water despite often being no healthier.

"Even in areas where tap water is safe to drink, demand for bottled water is increasing, producing unnecessary garbage and consuming vast quantities of energy," she says.

The study says that at as much as $2.50 per litre, bottled water actually costs more than petrol.


Thristy Italians

It added that the US was the largest consumer of bottled water, with Americans drinking 26 billion litres in 2004. Mexico came in second at 18 billion litres followed by China and Brazil at 12 billion each.

Working up a thirst
Top 10 bottled water consumers in 2004 (billion litres)

1. United States 25.8
2. Mexico          17.7
3. China            11.9
4. Brazil            11.6
5. Italy              10.7
6. Germany       10.3
7. France           8.5
8. Indonesia      7.4
9. Spain            5.5
10. India           5.1


In terms of consumption per person, Italians came first at nearly 184 litres, or more than two glasses a day, followed by Mexico and the United Arab Emirates with 169 and 164 litres per person respectively.

The study said that demand for bottled water soared in developing countries between 1999 and 2004 with consumption tripling in India and more than doubling in China.

That has translated into massive costs in packaging the water, usually in plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is derived from crude oil, and then transporting it by boat, train or on land.

"Making bottles to meet Americans' demand for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel some 100,000 US cars for a year," according to the study.

"Worldwide, some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year."

Waste worries

The plastic bottles pose a further environmental risk once the water has been drunk.

The study, citing the Container Recycling Institute, said that 86% of plastic water bottles in the United States end up as rubbish and those buried can take up to 1000 years to biodegrade.

Top bottled water consumption per person in 2004 (litres)

1.
Italy     183.6
2. Mexico  168.5
3. UAE      163.5
4. Belgium 148
5. France   141.6 
6. Spain    136.7
7. Germany 124.9
8. Lebanon 101.4
9. Switzerland 99.6
10. Cyprus   92.0

Source: Earth Policy Institute

In addition, some 40% of the PET bottles deposited for recycling in the US  in 2004 ended up being shipped to China.

The study said that the rapid growth in the industry has also led to water shortages in some areas.

It said that while consumers tend to link bottled water with healthy living, tap water can be just as healthy and is subject to more stringent regulations than bottled water in many regions, including Europe and the United States.

"In fact, roughly 40% of bottled water begins as tap water," the study says. "Often the only difference is added minerals that have no marked health benefits."

Source:
Aljazeera + Agencies
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