Monday, January 24, 2011

It’s Time to Ban Single Use Plastic Water Bottles

College sailing has banned single use water bottles from its events. Real rules against it! Sailors must drink from re-useable bottles and hosts must provide a source of water to refill those bottles.

The New England Scholastic Sailing Association (high school sailing) has approved the same policy on a voluntary basis.

Host schools and coaches are tired of finding bottles in their sailing waters, tired of picking up the empties after an event, and tired of disposing of the mountain of trash. The bottles are frequently discarded without recycling the plastic.

My first reaction to this information was totally selfish. How will addressing this inconvenience me? I take along bottled water when I sail and buy cases of it for high school regattas. My sailing facility does not have a readily available source of clean drinking water to provide to regatta participants. Is it really a big enough problem to warrant new efforts from me?

Upon looking into it, it IS a big enough problem. In fact, it’s big enough that I’m ashamed I haven’t changed my ways before now.

Some bottled water facts:

• 60,000,000 plastic water bottles are discarded EVERY DAY in America.

• Only 23% (highest estimate I’ve found) of plastic water bottles are recycled. The rest end up in landfills or worse, where they can leach chemicals into the ground water.

• It takes ½ cup of oil to manufacture and transport each bottle.

• It requires 3 times as much water to make the bottle as it does to fill it.

• In producing each bottle, the CO2 released into the atmosphere would fill 12 balloons.

• Bottled water costs between 200 to 10,000 times as much as tap water.

• Virtually every independent study on bottled water shows some contamination from bacteria and/or synthetic chemicals.

• Many of the leading brands are not mountain spring water, but merely tap water that has been run through filters.

A simple alternative is tap water in reusable plastic, aluminum, or stainless steel bottles. Reusable metal bottles can be bought for as little as $4 each when purchased in bulk. Plastic bottles are even cheaper.

If water quality is the issue, it should be comforting to know that the safety of tap water is more regulated than the safety of bottled water. Other quality issues depend on a comparison of specific bottled products to specific tap water sources. When necessary, filters are available to upgrade the chemical and mineral purity, odor, and taste of tap water. We can almost always find a suitable tap water source.

When you think about it, you have to admit that re-usable bottles and tap water, especially when filtered, would work in almost every situation where we commonly drink bottled water. It’s hard to rationalize the need for wasteful production and distribution processes and the harmful environmental consequences of single use water bottles.

We have two fundamental choices. As the saying goes, we become part of the solution or we are part of the problem.

Every time we refill a bottle, we reduce the number of new bottles by one, and we take a step in the right direction. 59,999,999 bottles on the heap. Our reuse might encourage a friend to do the same. 59,999,998 bottles on the heap. College sailors are doing their part, and now, so are many high school sailors. 59, 998,000 bottles on the heap.

Here’s a visual representation of the rate at which plastic bottles are discarded.

The internet offers lots of information of the subject. Here are some sites and videos that make the point in 13 minutes or less. website with a 9 minute video reviewing the problems with bottled water - water/ - offers an entertaining 10 minute video explaining the life cycle of single use bottles with an anti-bottled water industry tone.

Penn and Teller have a 13 minute entertaining video debunking the perceived quality of bottled water -

A short tap water vs. bottled water discussion -


  1. wow - it's pretty staggering when you see the statistics all laid out. we bought several of the aluminum bottles (sigg brand, maybe?), and use them most of the time. I still would randomly buy a 24-pack of water bottles - but I guess it won't be too hard to curb that habit.

    we use a Pur brand pitcher filter (the big version that just sits in the fridge) - it makes our tap water taste MUCH better, and drinking water is always really cold from the fridge.

    cheers, my2fish

  2. Thank you. I'll take this to the club on Thursday evening.

  3. Many thanks for bringing this one up. It should be obvious that we sailors take special care and keep the shores and waters free of waist. And it does not harm anyone to pick up stuff.
    Smooth sailing!

  4. This comment was put on wrong post. Moved it here.

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