Could bottled water be the perfect explanation for the absurdity of today’s world? This luxury product pollutes, widens disparities and slows down or prevents investment in public drinking water networks, not even guaranteeing good quality. The UN released on Thursday. Based on the report, summarizes the work and data about the global bottled water industry.
The market is exploding. In fifty years, bottled water has become “a large economic sector”, It is one of the fastest growing in the world with a growth of 73% between 2010 and 2020. By 2021, sales of 350 billion liters are estimated at nearly $270 billion. And sales will double again by 2030, reaching $500 billion. One million liters of bottled water flows around the world every minute. In terms of volume, water treated by public water networks or surface water (e.g. by chlorination) accounts for almost half of the market share (47%), followed by mineral water (33%) and so-called “natural” water (20%).
The US is the largest market (with about $64 billion in sales) ahead of China ($45 billion) and Indonesia ($22 billion), with these three countries accounting for nearly half of the global market. In Europe, the biggest market is Germany. Those most thirsty for bottled water are residents of Singapore (who spent no less than $1,348 per capita in 2021 to obtain the precious liquid), more so than Australians ($386 per capita). On average, every citizen of the planet spends $34 a year on bottled water, which costs 150 to 1,000 times more than a liter of tap water. It is enough to produce cabbage from multinational companies like PepsiCo (Aquafina brand), Coca Cola (Dasani brand), Nestlé, Danone, which occupy the top four positions in the world market.
The reasons for such craze for bottled water are varied. In rich “northern” countries, this water is available “Often viewed as healthier and better tasting than tap water and more of a luxury than a necessity”, the report notes. In “Southern” developing countries, bottled water sales “Predominantly lack or absence of a reliable public water supply”. problems “Mostly caused by corruption and chronic underinvestment in water supply infrastructure” The report states. Companies that sell bottled water refer to this situation as a marketing argument in favor of their products as a healthier and safer alternative to tap water.
Bottled water is not safer or better than tap water
Which is certain. “Some private companies take a generic product cheaply, process it and sell it to people who can afford it. Point to the statement. But ironically, about 60 cases have been registered in 40 countries in every region of the world, showing that the product is not always safe, and companies do much less testing and health checks on the water than the public water service. The document indicates that the mineral content of bottled water can “varies considerably” Depending on the brand, within the same brand or even in the same batch of bottles. Origin of water (municipal system, surface water, etc.), treatment processes (chlorination, disinfection by UV rays, ozonation, reverse osmosis), storage conditions (duration, exposure to light, temperature, etc.), packaging materials (plastic, glass), “All can have a negative impact on the quality of bottled water.” Pointing to the statement. It causes inorganic (heavy metals, pH, turbidity, etc.), organic (benzene, pesticides, microplastics, etc.) and microbiological (pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoan parasites) water pollution.
This incredible discovery “Surprisingly, we did not expect many studies to show that the notion that bottled water is necessarily safer and of higher quality than tap water is false,” he said. was handed over liberation Zeineb Bouhlel is a researcher at the Institute for Water, Environment and Health and the United Nations University for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) and lead author of the report.
tap water, “Generally good quality and safe with or without filtration in most developed countries” East “Highly regulated, frequently tested and publicized water quality parameters”, The report states. This is not the case with bottled water. Strict quality standards imposed on tap water “Bottled water is rarely needed, and even if tests are done, the results are rarely made public”, Underlines the document. “It is more important than ever to strengthen the law regulating the bottled water industry in general and its quality standards in particular”Vladimir Smakhtin, co-author of the report and former director of UNU-INWEH, emphasizes.
The extent of plastic pollution
Opacity reigns particularly in the volumes of water withdrawn by this industry. “may have significant impacts on local water resources”, The report states. So, for example, in the United States, Nestlé Waters extracts 3 million liters per day from a source in Florida, while Danone pumps up to 10 million liters per day in Evian-les-Bains (Haute-Savoie). What exacerbates the effects of drought? Not really, answers Vladimir Smakhtin: “The bottled water industry does not contribute significantly to the world’s scarcity of resources, and its impacts are negligible compared to, for example, irrigation for agriculture.”
The problems lie mainly elsewhere. Especially the amount of plastic pollution. The bottled water industry will produce approximately 600 billion plastic bottles and other containers or 25 million tons of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) waste by 2021, 85% of which is not recycled. The equivalent weight of 625,000 40-ton trucks is enough to build a long, unbroken line from New York to Bangkok, the report explains.
“Bottled water is not a sustainable solution to the world’s thirst problem. Vladimir Smakhtin concludes. The solution is to invest more in public drinking water networks. This is entirely possible, the report points out. According to its authors, an investment of less than half of the $270 billion spent on bottled water would be enough to correct the glaring inequities in access to drinking water and provide it to the 2 billion people in the world today who do not have it. Water market today. The question, often, is political will.
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