Americans toss 35 billion plastic bottles a year

We all know that bottled water is a wasteful, high-cost convenience. But Americans are addicted. This year, we consumed four times as many gallons of bottled water as we did in 1997. So maybe it’s time for a reminder: commercially bottled water isn’t any cleaner or healthier than the water we get from tap. In fact, it’s worse and it costs more.

In the U.S., municipal water supplies are tested multiple times every day. The moment a contaminant is detected, the supply is shut down and thoroughly investigated. Bottled water, on the other hand, is one of the least regulated commodities in the U.S. Independent studies have repeatedly found alarming levels of fecal material, bacteria, and plastic polymer chemicals in bottled samples.

Of course, the biggest costs come from the bottles themselves – considering that Americans go through 35 billion plastic bottles each year. Four in five of these bottles don’t get recycled, choking up U.S. landfills or rivers. This is bad news for our waterlife and wildlife because many of these bottles contain traces of harmful xenoestrogens like BPA. Like other inorganic hormones, BPA compounds in fat cells and is never fully flushed out of our bodies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even banned this chemical from baby bottles and sippy cups last summer after dozens of studies linked long-term exposure to increased risks for certain cancers and birth defects.

Could the raising healthcare expenditures be allayed slightly if we paid more attention to the unperceived risks of drinking from BPA-laden water bottles? Perhaps, if you consider the correlation between BPA and cancer risks. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provided an estimate in 2008 that cancers collectively accounted for $77.4 billion in direct medical costs. Proper health insurance can ease the economic pains of paying for expensive cancer treatments, but the U.S. Census Bureau reported that about 50 million people were uninsured in 2010. Worse, by 2020 medical expenditures for cancer are expected to reach $158 billion or higher.

Check out the latest video in the Hidden Costs Series to see the staggeringly high costs of bottled water. Share the info with your friends and let’s finally kick this $11.7 billion bad habit.

Video Transcript: The Hidden Costs of Bottled Water

Some plastic bottles contain BPA, a compound that causes hormonal imbalances. Also, DEHP and PET, two very hard to pronounce chemicals linked with liver issues, fetal development problems, and more, are found in some bottles.

  • Health: C

Americans toss 35 billion plastic bottles a year. That’s 111 bottles per person. Each bottle requires about 1/4 of its capacity in crude oil to be produced and distributed. Recycling just one bottle would save the same amount of energy required to power a 60 watt bulb for six hours. Unfortunately, only 20% of water bottles are recycled each year.

  • Environment: F

While bottled water isn’t necessarily expensive compared to a car, the truth is there’s only about 4 cents worth of water in each bottle, a 96% markup on the essential product. From 1990 to 2007, bottled water consumption grew from 2.2 billion gallons to 8.8 billion gallons, and the increased consumption isn’t tapering. It’s an $11.7 billion business.

  • Economy: C

Final grade: D+

To see more videos from the Hidden Costs series, check out

Video: Hidden Costs Series: Bottled Water

We all know that bottled water is a wasteful, high-cost convenience. This year, Americans consumed four times as many gallons of bottled water as we did in 1997. View full post:
Video Transcript
Health: C
Stanford’s psychology department says: Facebook users reliably overestimate other people’s happiness, and therefore are more depressed about their own lives – a problem plaguing women more so than men. On the flip side however, access to Facebook at work makes employees happier, and each year about 10% of companies allow browsing to improve employee morale.
Environment: C+
In 2010 Facebook announced it would be building a coal-operated data center in Oregon– but after environmental agencies came down hard on the social networking site, Facebook made some changes. In 2011, Facebook linked up with Climate Corp to produce data centers with a lighter footprint and in time hopefully their data centers will be more eco-wise.
Economy: C+
With over a billion active users# and nearly a quarter of them visiting 5 times a day it’s no wonder Facebook made $5 billion dollars last year. But with 488 million of these users navigating via mobile devices and with Facebook struggling to monetize mobile, it’s also no surprise that Facebook made about a $1 billion less than expected.
Final Grade: C+


Newest Videos
  1. The Odds and Ends: Behind the Scenes View

    The Odds and Ends: Behind the Scenes

    Many viewers are interested in how our video production partner, Super Frog …

  2. The Odds and Ends View

    The Odds and Ends

    Accidents happen. But we wanted to know: how often do they happen? We crunched …

  3. Hidden Costs of Aging View

    The Hidden Costsof Aging

    In spite of various studies showing that baby boomers are living longer than …