General Question

marinelife's avatar

Would it be a good idea to limit bottled water sales?

Asked by marinelife (62249points) May 26th, 2008

Much of bottled water is no better, and some of it is worse, than tap water. It uses a lot of resources to bottle and transport. It also leaves tons of extra plastic containers. We probably couldn’t legislate against it except for emergency relief or use at sporting events, but should we?

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25 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

No, I don’t think it would be, but I’m sure San Francisco will get around to it sooner or later anyway.

shilolo's avatar

@Niki. I disagree. For the most part, bottled water is as big a scam as vitamins and nutritional supplements, and the (non-recycled) plastic often ends up in landfills or dumped in the ocean. I would only add the two exceptions that 1) extremely immunocompromised individuals (like those with AIDS or cancer patients) are better off with bottled (distilled) water and 2) when traveling to foreign lands, bottled/purified water beats tap water.

nikipedia's avatar

Let me clarify. I think it would probably have a lot of benefits. But I would hate to live in a world where the government tells me that I’m not allowed to drink my water out of a bottle. I guess like other environmental issues this is sort of a Tragedy of the commons situation—but I would prefer to retain the minor liberty of getting to drink bottled water whenever I want to, even at the cost of the environment.

That said, I would certainly support measures to make the plastics easily biodegradable and ALWAYS to find new energy sources. Would rather get around the environmental problems that way—at the root.

And—full disclosure—my roommates have guilted me into giving up my bottled water habit and I now drink Brita water out of a Nalgene and hate every minute of it.

Incidentally—good to see you around, shilolo.

Ryancortez's avatar

No, it seems like all your caring about is the environmental issue. There is a demand for bottled water by consumers. Instead of taking rash action and limiting the freedom of bottled water companies, why not take action to increase recycling of the bottles.

bluemukaki's avatar

Two things need to be done, firstly people need to get over this stupid fear of tap water and stop buying bottled water and those filters for tap water which are a scam anyway for home use. People have been told to be fearful of anything that isn’t sterile and covered in detergent, water from the tap tastes better than bottled water anyway (at least it does in Australia). Bottled water is great when you are out and about, and if you keep using the bottle once you’ve bought it, so much the better.
The second thing is people need to recycle and re-use bottles, in places like Thailand they don’t even crush and re-make glass bottles, they just clean them out and re-fill them. Water bottles can be used for hundreds of things, I found that 2 litre Coke bottle necks make great funnels and you can use the base of the bottle as a disposable bowl. The caps can be used to hold paint when you are painting, or you can use them to decorate a wall with a bottle top mosaic. Even if you just buy a water bottle once every now and then when you need to have bottled water, like when you forget it, and fill it up when you can.

There’s no point limiting sales, just encouraging people to not buy it as often is a far more effective and ‘free’ way of stopping the waste.

shilolo's avatar

@Ryan. Consumers also demand cigarettes and alcohol, but they are regulated, as they should be. Bottled water is such a scam. For the average person, there are no health benefits whatsoever to bottled water, yet now we have vitamin water (new scam), oxygenated water (even bigger scam) and so on!

Ryancortez's avatar

Scam or not health wise, bottled water still provides convinence and sometimes better taste. I think the comparison of bottled water regulation to alcohol and cigarettes regulation is pretty silly, because they are for different reasons.

MisterBlueSky85's avatar

I think we should should back up a moment here and take another look at what the problem actually is. It’s not that bottled water is a pointless product or that it may be harmful, but that the bottles aren’t being recycled like they should. How do we we solve this problem? This topic suggests the limitation of bottled water sales.

I disagree with this idea because it limits our freedoms and interferes with natural American capitalism. There are better solutions out there. Maybe, for instance, there should be a law that makes it illegal to make the bottles out of anything but polyethylene terephthalate. This type of plastic is the safest and easiest to recycle. Or maybe cities should try regulating recycling laws a little better, perhaps hiring folks to sort trash and recycling for recyclable goods. The city I live in does that, and people are much more conscious about recycling because we don’t want to pay more taxes if we do a bad job sorting the trash and recycling ourselves.

Can we think of any other ways to encourage recycling or discourage throwing the bottles away?

marinelife's avatar

Well, one possibility would be to tax bottled water, because of the additional burden it poses on the environment. Something like the deposit that used to be required on glass bottles.

shilolo's avatar

Lots of positive things “limit our freedoms and interferes with natural American capitalism.” Speed limits, emission limits on cars, fuel efficiency ratings, smoking bans, laws against prostitution, etc. What is so captitalistic about bottling water (free) and selling it for a huge profit to a naive public?

skfinkel's avatar

I am against banning or limiting anything. It just makes people want it more, and will begin a black market for the product.

However, when people realize they are paying top dollar for a product that is available for free and—as has been pointed out—in many cases better than the bottled product, they will lose interest. As with so many issues, education is the important factor. No one wants to be stupid or waste money—and this is an issue of ignorance and waste.

Also, as for reusing the bottles, the kind of plastic used in water bottles breaks down with small scratches, and should not be reused for drinking water—it becomes filled with bad chemicals. Best is to drink your own water from the sink. Bring with you a stainless steel container if you want to have a convenient carrier.

judochop's avatar

it would put pressure on people to buy home filter kits and reuse bottles. Go for it.

shilolo's avatar

@skfinkel. Great idea not to “ban or limit anything.” Lets allow a 14 year old to walk into the corner store and pick up a six-pack and a package of Marlboros. I mean, liberty and justice for all!

occ's avatar

Bottled water is one of my biggest pet peeves. I am not sure limiting sales is the right approach, but there should definitely be a label that says “the water in this bottle is from a public-source tap.” Since most of it is just tap water, people have the right to know. And for the Fiji water which is actually from a private source, maybe there should be a label that says, “This pristine water was stolen from undergrown aquifers in Fiji and shipped all the way around the world for your yuppie ass while people in Fiji are dying from lack of access to clean drinking water.”

skfinkel's avatar

@shilolo: I’m not against rules. I think boundaries are very important for children. But that’s different from creating a ban on something that people want. Is the difference not clear?

skfinkel's avatar

Great answer, occ! Give people the knowledge and they will act accordingly.

shilolo's avatar

Right, but when education fails, rules/regulations need to be established. People are educated to wear a seatbelt, but most if not all states have laws requiring seat belt use. Most everyone knows that talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous, but people will do it anyway until laws are established punishing the act. I think bottled water drinkers either think it is healthier, which it is not, or tastes better (which it rarely does) or is convenient. That we allow ourselves to waste tons of plastic and destroy our planet for those reasons is ridiculous. Sometimes, we have to be protected from ourselves.

skfinkel's avatar

@shilolo: you could be right—but if we start on bottled water, we might have to ban lots more things that are contributing to wrecking the planet and impoverishing people. What about poisons for lawns? People love those, and seem happy to use poisons—good for them or not. Do you see banning those? Your implication is that education about a product will fail, but if a fraction of the money and time and energy that we use for useless products was put on teaching people the truth about bottled water, the education would succeed. This is more information than education (which is really a whole other problem).

sarbee's avatar

I completely disagree 1. Those bottles are recyclable 2. Have you ever tasted the tap water in San diego, its disgusting. All I drink is arrowhead

gooch's avatar

No way limiting water is stupid.

marinelife's avatar

@srfinkel I am not sure I agree with shilolo about banning bottle water even though I posted the question. I can see all sorts of issues with that, but you picked an example where I absolutely feel those poisons people put on their lawns should be banned.

The obsession with green weed-free lawns not found in nature is ludicrous. No one will stop using the chemicals on the market even though they have been told they damage the environment, because they don’t care if their lawn looks good.

Lawn runoff is poisoning fish and our own water sources. It is coming up the ladder of the food chain into our own bodies. It is nuts!

occ's avatar

I should add, this is one of the best articles I“ve ever read on bottled water. If you’re at all interested in this topic, you owe it to yourself to read this piece. Charles Fishman is a fabulous writer – I think this article sparked so much interest that he’s now working on a book version.

Maverick's avatar

The basic problem is that people appear to be too stupid to recycle as hardly any of those “recyclable” water bottles actually do get recycled. We’ve been trying to educate people for years now about recycling, and it is barely making an impact. So, with that history in mind, I think legislation is an option. Where I live, nobody needs to drink bottled water (most of it is actually bottled from our tap water anyway), so I don’t think it really makes sense to sell or buy it here. When you travel in old-world Europe, they have fountains in the center of town that people still use to collect free water from when they need it. Why don’t we have that here? A few public fountains that people could refill re-usable containers would make bottled water redundant.

judochop's avatar

@ occ. Since when have people in Fiji not have clean drinking water?

occ's avatar

Hi Judochop, it was from the article I read in FastCompany magazine (linked to in my answer above).
I’ll copy the pertinent paragraph here, since it’s a very long article (but well worth the read).

“And in Fiji, a state-of-the-art factory spins out more than a million bottles a day of the hippest bottled water on the U.S. market today, while more than half the people in Fiji do not have safe, reliable drinking water. Which means it is easier for the typical American in Beverly Hills or Baltimore to get a drink of safe, pure, refreshing Fiji water than it is for most people in Fiji.”

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