Battle of the bottle: Opposing sides talk bottled water views

April 22, 2013

You already know that talk of politics or religion brings about spirited and emotional debates. Would you be surprised to know that bottled water has a similar effect? Yes, the package, typically made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), has received quite a bit of attention in recent years, both positive and negative. 

In 2011, total U.S. bottled water consumption increased to 9.1 billion gallons; up from 8.75 billion gallons in 2010, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp . Per-capita consumption was up 3.2% in 2011, and the firm estimates every person in America drank an average of 29.2 gallons of bottled water last year.

Still, not everyone is on board with the bottle. In September 2012, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley upheld the banning of bottled water sales in the town of Concord, MA.

In the U.S. and Canada, at least 35 universities or colleges have banned or restricted the sale of bottled water, and another 10 have sought to restrict their use, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education . Some estimates are as high as 90 colleges and universities.

Clearly, there are opposing views when it comes to bottled water. And perhaps two of the most outspoken parties are The International Bottled Water Association and the Corporate Accountability International . Their most recent battle is around restricting access to bottled water in America's national parks. PlasticsToday went beyond the press releases to talk with both parties about their viewpoints.

Ban the bottle

Erin McNally-Diaz, senior organizer for the Corporate Accountability International, believes there is plenty of misleading information out there regarding bottled water.

"Bottled water corporations have attempted to change the way we think about water, which is a basic human right, to make it a commodity," she said. "In other words, they are manufacturing this sort of demand when we already have access to clean and safe water on a tap."

The Corporate Accountability International is a 35-year-old membership organization that "protects the environment, public health and human rights from corporate abuse." The group's Think Outside the Bottle campaign works to promote and ensure public funding for the country's public water systems, while at the same time, challenges the "misleading marketing" of the bottled-water industry.

One of its big tasks is encouraging America's parks to go bottled water free.

"There is a clear alternative to bottled water - the public water systems," McNally-Diaz said. "People are turning back to the tap because they recognize it's the best way to ensure that everyone has access to water."

Last year, the Grand Canyon began to phase out the sale of plastic bottles. Prior to that ban, the Grand Canyon  National Park estimated that disposable bottles accounted for 20% of the park's waste and 30% of its recyclables.

Zion National Park and Hawaii Volcanoes are among the 14 national parks out of 403 that have restricted bottled usage and installed hydration stations to encourage the usage of reusable bottles. Parks such as Mount Rainier, Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) and Yosemite are also considering bottled water bans

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