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Published: Monday, 3/26/2012

Get off the bottle

America is wising up to the waste of the $22 billion bottled-water industry.

More than 90 colleges and universities, Bloomberg News reports, are banning or curtailing the availability of bottled water. This month, Grand Canyon National Park stopped selling bottled water.

Five years ago, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution that challenged the need for municipal purchases of single-use water bottles. The conference noted that its 1,100-plus member cities were spending $43 billion a year to keep their water supplies in top condition.

Why contribute to the nation’s voluminous waste stream and stress the environment further by trucking bottled water, the mayors asked, when nature’s basic beverage is already piped into most homes, schools, and workplaces, and meets higher standards than ever?

Single-use bottled water offers convenience and a healthy alternative to sodas bought on the run. But there is greater cachet in toting water in a refillable bottle. It says not only that “I’m drinking for better health,” but also that “I care about our finite resources.” Talk about hip.

Bloomberg reported that more than 9 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the United States last year, while the industry expanded by 5.4 percent. Other numbers tell the rest of the story.

The Sierra Club says the industry generates 1.5 million tons of waste a year. The Container Recycling Institute says only 20 percent of bottles are recycled.

At Grand Canyon National Park, plastic bottles made up 20 percent of the park’s solid waste and one-third of its recyclables. Now, areas with heavy visitor traffic have free water stations. Refillable bottles are sold for less than $2.

Many Americans already have a collection of reusable bottles in their cupboards. It’s time to save waste, fuel, and the ozone layer by filling them.

Use your brain. Turn on the tap.



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