The bottled water industry is busy. More than 1 million bottles are sold every minute worldwide and the industry shows no signs of slowing down, according to a new report. Global sales of bottled water are expected to double by 2030.
The huge global success of the industry carries high environmental, climate and social costs, it was published on Thursday.
Groundwater pumped to fill billions of plastic bottles a year threatens drinking water supplies and exacerbates the global problem of plastic pollution; According to the report, industrial development diverts attention and resources away from supporting much-needed public water infrastructure in many countries. .
One of the fastest growing industries in the world
Researchers analyzed data from 109 countries to find that the bottled water industry was. They confirmed that sales increased by 73% from 2010 to 2020 and that it is one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
In 2021, global bottled water sales will reach 350 billion liters and will be valued at $270 billion, and by 2030 this figure is expected to reach $500 billion.
Bottled water is popular around the world, with the United States, China and Indonesia being the largest consumers. The countries of the southern hemisphere together account for 60% of the market share.
According to the report, the majority of plastic water bottles are used in the United States, China and Indonesia. – Ben Hastie/Media News Group/L'Aquila/Getty Images
According to the report, there are different motivations for drinking bottled water depending on the region.
In developed countries where clean tap water is widely available, bottled water is seen as a "luxury" and is healthier and tastier than tap water, the report said.
"This perception is reinforced by companies promoting bottled water as a clean product," report author Zainab Bouhlel, a researcher at the US Institute for Water, Environment and Health, told CNN. United Nations University.
However, in many low- and middle-income countries, this is often due to a lack of access to reliable water pipes.
Vladimir Smakhtin, co-author of the report and former director of the United Nations Center for Water Research, told CNN that industrialization and the potential to divert attention away from expanding public water infrastructure could exacerbate global water inequality. . Especially if the climate crisis worsens.
A spokesperson for the International Bottled Water Association told CNN that the industry "supports reliable public water systems that are critical to providing citizens with safe, clean drinking water."
“Bottled water is the key to clean drinking water around the world,” the spokesperson said, adding, “Bottled water is a partial solution for many developing countries where safe drinking water clean is not available.
"The industry spends very little money on marketing, especially compared to other beverages," the association added.
a well in the San Bernardino National Forest flows through an oil pipeline in the San Bernardino National Forest, California – Jay Calderon/Desert Sun/AP
The main source of bottled water is groundwater, which is rapidly declining in some parts of the world due to excessive mining and climate-induced droughts.
The main source of groundwater depletion is irrigated agriculture. But the volumes consumed by the bottled water industry could put further pressure on an already depleted water source. According to the report, over 2 billion people worldwide use groundwater for drinking purposes.
"Even if these seizures are minor in nature, the impact on local water resources can be significant," the report said.
Some companies operate in areas where potable water is scarce. There are also conflicts with communities concerned about the potential negative impacts of bottled water company products.
For example, Nestlé Waters North America, now known as Bluetriton Brands, has come under fire for leaving the drought-stricken state of California.
In the US, according to the report, Nestlé Waters (as-is) will draw 3 million liters of water a day from Florida Springs by 2020, and in France Danone Water Company will draw up to 10 million liters a day from Evian . Lesson-. Baines. French Alps.
"The responsible use and conservation of water is central to our efforts to build a more efficient business and be a responsible steward," said a Nestlé spokesperson.
Danone had not yet commented at the time this story was published.
Overall, the report says, "there is very little information on the amount of water withdrawn." In some countries, the lack of groundwater control and management can lead to a significant reduction in water availability in terms of social and environmental consequences.
A spokesperson for the International Bottled Water Association said: "The myth that bottled water uses more water is a common myth." "Production of bottled water uses a very small amount of water – just 0.01 percent of the country's total water consumption," the spokesman said, referring to the United States.
A wave of plastic pollution
The bottled water industry is projected to produce nearly 600 billion plastic bottles and containers by 2021, according to a report. This has led to an estimated 25 million tons of plastic waste, most of which is not recycled and ends up in landfills.
According to the report, the pile of garbage is so large that it is enough to fill 40 tons of trucks that travel from New York to Bangkok every year.
Fossil fuels are the raw material for most plastics, with a large carbon footprint from production to disposal. Judith Inc., former regional administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency and now president of Beyond Plastics, has called plastics a "climate killer."
A separate report for 2021 shows that if the country had a plastics industry, it would be the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.
Workers work on a plastic bottle water production line at a factory in Yichun, Jiangxi Province, China in 2022. – Deng Longhua/VCG/Getty Images
According to one report, 85% of plastic water bottles break down in 1000 years and become waste. They also end up in the ocean, creating plastic waste that poses a serious threat to marine life.
According to a study released earlier this month, the world's oceans are contaminated with an estimated 171 trillion plastic particles in so-called "plastic smog" which, if collected, would weigh 2.3 million tonnes.
In the environment, plastic bottles break down into tiny particles called microplastics and end up in our drinking water, posing a danger to human health.
Plastic releases toxic chemicals into the animal, contaminating the animal and human food chain.
“It is very concerning that we are stuck in a system that contains toxic chemicals and is so dependent on providing filtered plastic bottled water,” said Theresa Carlson, scientific and technical adviser at the Global Pollution Prevention Network. He told CNN he was involved in the investigation.
"Environmental regulation is part of the history of the bottled water industry," said a spokesperson for the International Bottled Water Association. He added that he is working with government, industry and community interests to promote the recycling of bottled water.
As the search for greener alternatives to plastic bottles continues, the report says there is still no "corrective solution".
Some companies are looking to biodegradable alternatives made from materials that don't use fossil fuels and break down quickly, but that won't solve the problem, Inc. said.
"The fact is that most bioplastics are not biodegradable," said the director. “The real solution to plastic pollution is to reduce the production and use of single-use plastics.”
A world with water shortages
The report's authors say publicly available information about parts of the bottled water industry is limited, fragmented, and sometimes contradictory, and its findings should be taken with a grain of salt.
But what is clear is that the industry has been an important economic sector for decades, and bottled water suppliers say they have an incentive to increase sales and expand the market.
The report's authors fear that the effects of groundwater abstraction and plastic pollution by water bottling companies could be exacerbated by warming and water shortages.
"If you want to prepare for a warmer future, you need a reliable supply of water for everyone in your home," Smakhtin told CNN. "If you don't have it, you're more vulnerable to heat stroke. Bottled water can reduce thirst, but it's not a permanent fix."
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