The real cost of Plastic Bottled Water – The Challenge
June 5, 2019

The real cost of bottled water – The solution (Part 2)

Part one of this two-part article covered how the cost of the bottled water industry affects us both financially and environmentally. But the costs associated with this industry don’t just affect consumers and the planet. They affect the bottled water industry itself. The way that businesses operate in many industries is beginning to be seen as unsustainable and it’s clear that we need to find new ways forward that will benefit both people and organizations. This may require a radical shift to the way we approach things.

A move towards a circular economy

Our current economic system and production methods are placing too many pressures on the environment. Scientists are now saying we have only just over a decade to make the sweeping changes needed to avert a potential environmental disaster. Many of our current problems are linked to industry and agriculture and the way they use up the planet’s finite resources. Our current model of production operates on a linear scale – we take, make, consume and dispose and thus deplete these finite resources at a rapid rate.

Moving to a circular economic model would simply mean changing the “dispose” element of this model to “recycle” or “re-use” and linking it back to the first stage – “take” – so that we have a circle rather than a straight line, and we take from what we recycle rather than from fresh, untouched resources. This would help minimize waste, protect resources and reduce pollution. It would also have significant benefits to both consumers and businesses.

The cost of bottled water to the bottled water industry

The first article talked about some of the costs associated with the production of plastic bottled water. In this article, the focus was on environmental effects. But let’s switch our attention now to the effects these processes have on the bottled water industry itself. Following the linear production model, bottled water companies “take” water from natural springs and groundwater sources (sometimes overseas) as well as from municipal water supplier and then “make” bottled water products using single-use PET plastic bottles. The water is “consumed” and then around 80% of the empty bottles are “disposed of” in landfills or polluting waterways.

These processes generate a great expense to the industry. Water has to be captured, treated and transported. If the water has to be transported a great distance, such as Fiji, this increases costs. Although bottled water is extracted from clean sources, it still needs to be purified to meet national safety standards. When the excessive amount of water it takes to produce just one bottle of water is also taken into account, we can get an idea of how the wasteful processes used by the bottled water industry is affecting the pockets of the industry itself.

How the bottled water industry can reduce costs and become more sustainable

Moving back to the idea of the circular economy, there are two key things this industry can do to make itself more sustainable both environmentally and financially. The first is to move towards 100% recyclable bottles that aren’t made using fossil fuels, such as plant-based bottles now being used by some of the big bottled drinks brands.

The second thing is for companies to reconsider where and how they source their water supplies. Although bottled water companies often market themselves around a particular source of water, reports have revealed that as much as 64% of bottled water actually comes from municipal tap water sources. Rather than employing costly methods to extract and transport water from increasingly depleted sources overseas, these companies could focus instead on the new technologies available to purify locally sourced water.

These two moves would see the industry “taking” and “making” from more sustainable sources and making a substantial economic saving in the process. It’s a way forward where we can protect our environment without anybody having to lose out.

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