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Bottled water bye-bye?

Bottled water is getting belted for its environmental cost and general wastefulness. This is a category created by marketing and packaging technology. Millions of consumers use it in dozens of different ways. Most of them could refill sports bottles and save a lot of money and plastic. Industry has created a monster, and some people in the industry are doing some wonderful questioning and asking if we really do need this product.

Consumers are not of one mind on this. Many consumers do see it as wasteful. Some see it as ridiculous, stupid, selfish, or even horrific. Some of those who don't use it feel smarter, more economical, and more environmentally sensitive than those who do.

Soccer moms, Wal-Mart moms, and lawyer moms all walk, run, drive, and scoot out of the house or office with a water bottle tucked in their pocket, purse, or carry on. Millions of bottles are thrown away as airline passengers part with them at the last possible moment before they go through security, much as they would put out a cigarette at the last possible moment if they allowed themselves, or were allowed, to smoke.

In six packs, 12-, 24- and even 48- packs, cartons of bottled water fly off the shelves of supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores, mass merchandisers, superstores, big box office stores, and corner delis. Little bottles fit into the special belts designed for recreational runners. Meeting planners make sure there is a bottle at every place. Designers have made sure that strollers, auto consoles, refrigerator doors, cartons, jean and vest pockets, and attache cases can accommodate them. Dieters use them to replace sugary beverages.

Health-oriented consumers use them in place of coffee and tea as well as soft drinks and juice. One shopper told us that her favorite carry-on has a pocket for water bottles, which she looks forward to being able to use again someday. It's hard to attack this handheld, health-affirming product that kids and adults use to replace calories and artificial sweeteners and find easy to carry and drink on the run.

Some consumers agree that bottled water should go:

* "I think bottled water is the biggest scam pulled on Americans in recent memory. "

* "I think it's extremely wasteful and foolish to buy it -there are many simple water filters available to improve the taste of tap water--also refrigerating it a day or so will improve the taste. At the very least if the only water available is bottled and you are extremely thirsty, buy it and save the bottle. You can refill a bottle many times as long as it's well washed and rinsed (or run through the dishwasher) a bottle can last for months."

* "Never have liked the bottle water as it seemed to leave an after-taste in my mouth. All of my grown children use it, but at home, they always drank from the local water supply. It is nice to have on hand as I live in a hurricane state, and if we needed water we would have it. I think it is overpriced and maybe should be looked into more."

* "It is usually ridiculous to buy bottled water for home use. But with the disappearance of public water fountains (perhaps for safety and security reasons) bottled water should continue to be offered through concession stands and vending machines. "

* "I think it is a waste of money. I can't taste the difference between it and tap water most of the time. When I do, I prefer tap water. We installed a filter on the pipe leading to our faucet and ice maker that for much less money filters out any remnants of impurities entering our drinking water. "

One proposes a slow weaning solution: "We consumers need to be re-taught to take that extra time to put tap water in saved reuseable bottles. Cluttering up the environment with mountains of plastic bottles somehow seems very stupid. The public will need to be "re-educated" on this one, however; breaking habits does not come easy!"

Most believe that bottled water is justified:

* "I think bottled water is needed in grocery stores, etc., and that it is safe to drink. I don't personally reuse the bottles. I drink filtered water from the fridge when I am home, but when in the car or anywhere else, I take my bottle of water along. "

* "If someone wants to visit west Texas, anywhere, and try to drink their tap water, you will see why so much bottled water is purchased. There are very few cities in this great Nation that have drinkable tap water that tastes sweet and good. If more people would invest in RO systems, they would not need to buy bottled water. Plus it keeps coffeemakers running more smoothly much longer due to lack of buildup of mineral deposits. Heck, even the little PUR faucet mount makes water taste better. Sure tap water is lots cheaper than bottled water, and look what we are doing to our environment with all those plastic throwaway bottles. I bet only about 10% are recycled."

* "YES! Anybody that has any kind of gastro problem, like me, knows if you drink the same water everywhere you go, your digestive system rebels far less! I take bottled water with me everywhere I go! You must look for the water with reverse osmosis. To hawk the best brand--Nestle's!! If you recycle the bottles there is, of course, less waste. I use the bottles around my house for anything from plant water bottles to funnels.

* "It is not a necessary expense but I do purchase some bottled water to have on hand when I have a workman working in the heat outside or the mail delivery person. My understanding also is there is no fluoride in the water and dental problems could increase. I don't know if that is true. "

* "Like many other things, bottled water is a convenience. Kids always have one at sports activities, which is a health factor. We always carry a bottle in the car as we often drive 2-3 hours at a time. We do rinse our empties with hot water and refill them to lessen plastic waste."

* "I think that bottled water is for convenience. It's easy to insert a bottle into your kid's lunch. I often grab a bottle when running out the door."

* "I use gallons of bottled spring water for my fish because it has no chlorine in it, while tap water might. My daughter uses individual bottles of water for sports. It is more convenient than refilling sports bottles, since you don't have to carry it once it is just throw it away. "

* "If the water from your tap is as full of minerals and mud (due to a construction site beside the creek from which the town draws the water--currently the subject of law suit) as ours is, when you are near the fridge and its filter you drink that--otherwise it's the bottled."

* "Yes, bottled water is needed. I have well-water that has high iron content. My doctor told me to get bottled water because my iron levels were sky-high. (Yes, a filtration system for our well would work, but we can't afford one.) "

* "As someone who is conscious of the environment and tries to reduce waste, I absolutely agree with the statement that bottled water is wasteful. HOWEVER, as someone who lives in an area of the country where there doesn't seem to be such a thing as clean water (especially after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Umberto stirred up our natural sources), I cannot imagine my life without bottled water. Even filtering my home water leaves it with such a distasteful quality that there's no way I would drink it. "

If the environmental impact of bottled water is shown to be more serious and widespread than most of today's consumers think it is, sales could drop like cigarettes. Meanwhile, bottled water sales will drop off gently as a result of the barrage of thinking about environmental responsibilities unless some cities and states decide to ban bottled water the way they've banned transfats and the sales of soft drinks in school.
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Publication:The Shopper Report
Date:Oct 1, 2007
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