Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What do you get when you mix plastic with water?

I haven’t heard a thing from Harper on my little missive encouraging him to heed the call to turn the climate crisis around. I also haven’t heard a peep from the opposition parties and my MP, with the exception of the Green Party which unsurprisingly lent their moral support. I’m certainly not a lone wolf. Even the New York Times, in an editorial, is calling upon the US Senate to act. The editor has pretty well given up on Bush. It is my great hope that the States will finally help turn the tide on this critical situation.

Speaking of tide….

I’d like to turn my attention to fresh water – specifically bottled water. What I’m about to reveal may shock you. According to David Suzuki, fresh accessible water represents .0001 percent of all water on earth. Can you believe that? This paltry amount sustains all humans and millions of other species.

So why do we manage it so poorly?

We dump poisons from our factories, farms and households into it. Industry consumes copious amounts of it. And we drain community aquifers all for the sake of convenience and private gain.

Bottled Water
We all know the importance of drinking lots of water every day. Water flushes toxins from our bodies and helps our immune systems. It also keeps us – you know - alive. To ensure we’re drinking plenty of the unadulterated liquid stuff many of us carry water bottles. They’re convenient and promise purified water. Or so we think….

Not so Convenient
Plastic bottles, despite recyclable, tend to end up in landfills and the ocean. In fact, Torontonians alone recycle 50% of the water bottles they buy, committing 65 million of their plastic empties to Michigan’s landfill every year. Every year.

You think this is mind boggling, check out the following piece by American artist Chris Jordon. It depicts two million plastic beverage bottles (water, juice, pop), the number used in the US every five minutes.

And if that makes your head spin, have you heard of the floating plastic continent in the Pacific Ocean? Also referred to as the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ and ‘trash vortex’, this mass, now double the size of continental USA, is 90% plastic caught in a series of currents called the North Pacific Gyre. This stew is not only unsightly, it’s deadly. According to the UN Environment Program, more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die every year from eating this plastic garbage. Floating in the heat of the sun, plastic bottles break down into little pellets and end up in marine life. Click here to read more.

Not so Pure
You think water from municipal taps is scary? Think again. Public water is the most heavily regulated water you can get, much more than the water in the bottles you buy. The latter is ‘self-regulated’. I don’t know about you, but I keep a wide berth of any product regulated by an industry whose main occupation is to make as much money as humanly possible. If you believe that ‘self-regulated’ water is safe, then I’ve got some property on a certain floating island in the Pacific you might be interested in.

Here is more food for thought. According to Adria Vasil in her book Ecoholic, the Institute of Environmental Geochemistry at the University of Heidleberg and Natural Resources Defense Council have tested plastic water bottles and found some cases of leaching, including arsenic, antimony, toluene and harmful chemical by-products of chlorination.

What’s more, the wonderful images displayed on bottles of mountain ranges promising the purest spring water on the planet is a sham. Most water comes from communities such as Guelph, Ontario – communities that are currently in the courts fighting the water companies for depleting public aquifers for private gain. Who are these companies? They are referred to as the big four: Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Nestlé and Danone.

What’s particularly shameful is that these companies are currently tapping into communities in India, draining already scarce supplies. Of course, they turn around and sell it back to the people at far greater the cost than by turning on the tap or dipping into a well.

This is not only an environmental issue – it’s a democratic one too. No community should be put in a position to have to fight a company for draining a precious local resource. And these companies make a killing. In Canada, provincial governments give companies access to water for free without consulting the citizens.

For more information visit: Inside the Bottle – The People’s Campaign on the bottled water industry

Not so Publicly Managed
The water bottle is part of a global movement by multinationals to privatize water. Companies are taking over management of municipal water systems. The rationale is as follows: private companies have the wealth to properly install the water pipes and manage the system in developing communities. When people have to pay for water, they will naturally conserve.

Problem – Private companies are not beholden to citizens. They must answer to their shareholders. In communities where private companies control tap water, people who earn dollars a day cannot afford the price of water. That is why there have been uprising in places like Bolivia and sabotage in the townships of South Africa.

Final thoughts
This from Inside the Bottle: “Globally, an estimated $100 billion US are spent every year on bottled water. Yet it would only take $30 billion to halve the number of people who do not have ready access to clean, safe, drinking water, and achieve one of the Millennium Development Goals established by the UN in 2000 (Earth Policy Institute, 2006).”


Kick the bottled water habit. Drink from a tap. I drink copious amounts of tap water in a glass everyday at work (and am alive to blog about it). Before going out, I make sure I drink a tall glass of water to keep me going.

If you like to carry water around with you, simply pick up either a glass or stainless steel bottle. This is a much better alternative to reusing plastic bottles, which are prone to bacteria buildup known to cause gastrointestinal illness and pneumonia.


Sign the Petition - Support Article 31 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
“Everyone has the right to clean and accessible water, adequate for the health and well-being of the individual and family, and no one shall be deprived of such access or quality of water due to individual economic circumstance.”

In the News

Drop that Salmon!
What goes in the oceans makes its way into us.

1 comment:

Mollyh said...

Hi Cheryl! I have an idea for you; could you drop me an email at mollyh AT yahoo DOT com? I don't see your email in your profile. Thanks!