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The Bottled Water Swindle

October 25th, 2009 · 3 Comments

A guest post from the knowledgeable and impassioned Patric Jullet on the challenges of bottled water.

Bottled Water: I call it one of the greatest “con job” of the preceding 3 or 4 decades and a marketing dream…aimed at the gullible. It is also my main pet hate. One of the biggest untruth in our world is the following line: “bottled water is safer than tap water.” It is not. It is…errr…the same.

Here are the simple and undisputed facts: roughly 40% of ALL bottled water sold is nothing more than yer ole municipal tap water put into a fancy plastic bottle which may cost an arm and a leg and will find a way, one day, to add to our polluted planet (sadly only 1, maybe 2 out of 10 plastic bottles get recycled.) On ayearly basis, bottled water needs some 320 billion plastic bottles to accommodate multinationals such as Pepsico, Coca-Cola and a slew of others in order to what I call “double-taxing” the unsuspecting consumers (since you pay water taxes and various levies to your local government to acquire the certainty of untainted & safe water – though in most instances you are paying for recycled, treated and purified water).

A noted journalist here, John Gibbons, worked out that even if you were to include a water charge into the cost, it would be up to 10,000 times more expensive to drink bottled water than tap.

Those two pics to the right tell a story of what happens to some of the discarded plastic bottles.

Coke “Philanthropy” Buys Friends, Silences Critics, and Advances Anti-Health Extremism, According toCSPI:

WASHINGTON: The American Academy of Family Physicians, which claims its mission is “to improve the health of patients, families and communities,” is coming under fire for a controversial new partnership with Coca-Cola, the world’s leading producer of obesity-promoting soft drinks.  The six-figure payment from Coke will fund “consumer education content related to beverages and sweeteners” on the group’s web site.  Today a number of leading physicians, nutritionists, and health experts are calling on the AAFP to return the money.

If your memory serves you well, you will remember Coca-Cola’s most unexcellent adventure in Great Britain, back in 1994: Coke Admits That Dasani is Nothing But Tap Water. Linky.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same):

According to The International Bottled Water Association, in 2008 the total bottled water consumption in the US alone was 8.6 billion gallons, a 1% decrease compared to 2007’s figure of 8.7 billion gallons.
In 2008, bottled water sales earned a 28.9% market share of the packaged beverage industry, up from 2007’s volume figure of 28.6%. “During these tough economic times, consumers have trimmed discretionary spending,” said Tom Lauria, Vice President of Communications for IBWA, “but bottled water sales decreased less than all other major categories and subsequently we now enjoy a slightly improved market share as consumers chose bottled water over other packaged beverages.”

I have spent some time going over and over the two main bottled water sites who peddle their “safe” water to wit, Coca-Cola and Pepsico to see if sales practices (read “I’m still pulling the wool over your face”) of these two companies have improved in the truth department.

At The Coca-Cola Company, providing top-quality products is our highest business objective and enduring responsibility. Keeping our quality promise requires consistent execution — by the Company, our bottling partners, distributors and retailers. This commitment extends to all of our products.

Way to go, Coke!

We are featuring the DASANI manufacturing process in North America here as an example of the rigor and routine behind our commitment to quality for all our products. The DASANI illustration allows you to interact with the manufacturing process steps and quality checks required to transform source water into pure, delicious and refreshing DASANI bottled water. In addition, you can examine a typical analysis that compares samples of DASANI to limits defined by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Wait! Did I read Coke invoking FDA? What about this then: the third largest ingredient in Dasani is potassium chloride. If you are to be put death, first you get a barbiturate, then a paralytic agent, and then the chemical to stop your heart (what a coincidence!) you guessed it: potassium chloride! “If you take everything out of the water, you don’t get the crisp, clean taste that consumers desire,” was the sanguine comment of Kim Price, spokesman for Coca-Cola.

Like all beverages produced by The Coca-Cola Company, our water brands are manufactured and packaged according to strict safety and quality requirements. In addition to local, state, and federal regulations, the Coca-Cola system requires certain global operating standards through The Coca-Cola Management System, which helps ensure quality in everything we do.

Global operating standards? In sectors where technological and production processes are homogeneous, extra weight is placed on standardisation of products as a prerequisite for success. As part of its vision that Coke should taste the same around the world, Coca-Cola has standardized its product and manufacturing process. Yay! We get you to buy the same tap water world-wide as we improve streamlined procedures at a greater cost efficiency. We are all winners!

Let’s see what kind of blurb we get over at Pepsico with their Italian-sounding name, Aquafina.

Aquafina Community Action

Every day across America, families, friends and individuals generously come together to provide their talents to their communities.

Active participation in volunteerism demonstrates to the world our real and committed belief that today is the day we have a chance to do something good for our community and ourselves.

That is what motivates Aquafina to aid the actions of volunteers who positively impact the environment in their local communities. Aquafina has developed its community action program as a base of committed resources and knowledge we offer to organizers of green community events seeking to sustain their volunteer efforts. We feel strongly that our place is in service to and along side these remarkable people.

Every one of us is a part of something bigger. We can be better working and acting together.

Mmmmmm…..can you smell the bs? Corporate Accountability International, a Boston-based group that challenges a range of corporate actions, has waged a campaign against PepsiCo, the Coca-Cola Co. and other makers of bottled water – one of the fastest-growing beverage categories – saying such products undermine consumer confidence in the public water supply.

In regard to PepsiCo, the group charges, among other things, that Aquafina’s label should tell consumers that the water usually comes from the area’s municipal water supply – the same source as common tap water.

Of, wait, there’s more….

Green projects across America may vary in size and scope, but each one shares the common goal of taking up the honored tradition of environmental stewardship and volunteerism. These community activities remain the bedrock on a daily path to a cleaner, healthier and sustained planet, and each volunteer plays an integral role in the success of the project. To aid the actions of volunteers who positively impact the environment in their local communities, Aquafina provides a range of resources to organizers of green community events seeking to sustain their volunteer efforts. These resources include free Aquafina water beverages and bags for proper recycling of the empty water bottles.

Well, flog me with a wilted lettuce leaf!

The bottom line is, NO PLASTIC BOTTLE OF WATER IS GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT. It is a huge consumer rip off. There may be legitimate times where bottled water is necessary, but most of the time it is a demand created by the manufacturers solely to make money.

As Penn and Teller PROVE, this is a LIE that the bottled water companies WANT you to believe. Americans WASTE more than FOUR BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR buying bottled water “because it is more safe than tap water.”

Boat made of plastic bottles to make ocean voyage as a way of highlighting this plastic insanity.

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Tags: Energy · environmental

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tom Lauria // Oct 26, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    You spend a lot of time at Coke and Pepsi two main websites, but where’s the research into the highly detailed, water quality specific websites of Nestle Waters North America, or DS Waters of America, or Danone Waters of America or Mountain Valley Water or even the International Bottled Water Association’s own website? There is comprehensive data at the ready. No need to cherry-pick primarily soda-pop sites for information other bottled water sites specialize in. Also, the oceanic gyre is primarily fishing gear and garbage from ships. Don’t pretend empty bottled water containers are a principal component. By the way. bottled water doesn’t compete with tap water. We fight for shelf space with sodas, juices, coffees and other sugary beverages.

    Yet, there is a ready-made competition for virtually everyone staring them in the face at home, in the office, at school: taps and water fountains.

    Why are you knocking the healthiest beverage you can buy?

    First off, when considering the pocket book, much cheaper (healthier for that pocket book, you could say) to buy it from the tap and, in many cases (perhaps most), healthier as well.

    You are claiming that the discussion must focus on comparing water with sodas? Are you kidding?

    Well, why not compare the health implications of slightly salty potato chips with very salty potato chips.

    Compare buttered popcorn with popcorn drowning in butter.

    This is absurdity.

    recycling rates for 2008 are 27% — that’s nearly a 10% increase from last year.

    First, Do you want to focus on that 73 percent that is not recycled?

    Second, the #1 rule is REDUCE. Then reuse. Then recycle. And, there are serious problems with reuse of plastic water bottles.

  • 2 Canada Guy // Oct 29, 2009 at 9:30 am

    We all know water bottles are wasteful and bad for the environment, yet their production is growing rapidly everywhere. Just 20 years ago the market for plastic water bottles was practically nonexistent, but today we produce billions of these completely unnecessary products. There can be only one sane response, plastic water bottles must be banned!

    Well, when it comes to plastic bags, price signals have worked wonders in places like Ireland, where the vast majority disappeared virtually overnight.

  • 3 DB Nothdurft // Jun 25, 2010 at 11:29 am

    It is correct that Pepsi and Coca-cola get their water from the public water supply; however, the presumption that the water in the bottle is the same as that which was taken from the municipal water supply. I cannot speak for DS Waters or any other company that sells water in the bottles intended for water coolers, but I do know that Pepsi runs their water (obtained from the municipal supply, or wells, or wherever) through microfiltration membranes that remove more contaminants than do the municipal water treatment systems themselves.

    So, it is actually pretty good water. When Hurricane Floyd flooded eastern North Carolina in 2000, Pepsi’s Greenville, NC plant was able to filter that pig-crap laden water and produce as sparkling-clean water as you can find in any desireable source… which they gave away to the people for free.

    DB Nothdurft, Master of Engineering, Professional Engineer, Professional Geologist