Bottled Water

We have a small local paper that gets delivered to our door, free of charge. The content is lightweight although the paper itself is generally packed with hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of advertising.

I happened to glance at one article with the headline: Municipalities, celebrities, activisits starting to reject bottled water.

Here is a summary of the ecological concerns raised in the story:

  • Water for bottling can be drawn from springs and aquifers, depleting them, as well as nearby wetlands and rural wells;
  • Transportation of the water, first for bottling, then when shipped to stores and, finally, hauled home in cars, trucks or mini-vans (when”™s the last time you saw someone on a bus carrying a carton of water?) burns oil, a non-renewable resource. As well, all these vehicles spew fumes, which we then get to breathe;
  • Water bottles, themselves, are made of oil, see above.
  • Their manufacture results in nasty byproducts;
  • While the bottles are recyclable, not all of them hit the blue box, turning them into one of our favourite street ornaments, often still containing water; and
  • Recycling helps, but comes at environmental (and financial) costs of its own. Heavy trucks haul the bottles from curbside blue boxes to York Region”™s waste management depot in East Gwillimbury where they”™re baled along with other beverage bottles made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate).

Bottled water has become environmentally bad. I guess that makes sense but is there another agenda to this particular article?

Two websites were highlighted for additional information on the topic: Kairos and Inside the Bottle, part of the Polaris Institute.

Kairos. Why, pray tell, is a “dynamic church based social justice movement” concerned with the environmental impact of drinking bottled water out of recyclable containers? Although it is difficult to track down on their site, I believe the answer is focused on the issue of privatization of the water supply. Linking this to the environment is one way of getting traction with consumers.

And I suppose it is much the same for Polaris. The Polaris Institute came about as part of a social movement against free trade. This group fears that transnational corporations have taken over public policy making in Canada. Here is what they say about water:

Our Water Progam aims to develop citizen capacities for education and action on water justice issues in communities. This includes issues like the privatization of water services, bulk water exports, water takings, water security and bottled water. Currently, a major focus of our work is on bottled water.

So, although it is fair to seed news stories in local newspapers about municipalities, celebrities, and activisits rejecting bottled water, it is also fair to understand motives and agendas. It is not always about the environment.

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