Bottled Water

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In 2018, Americans bought more than 70 billion plastic water bottles of one gallon or less. 3 out of 4 of them ended up in a landfill or incinerator. Hundreds of millions end up as litter on roads and beaches or in streams and other waterways. In turn, taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of dollars each year for disposal and litter cleanup.


WaterwaterWater, Water Everywhere:
The Growth of Non-carbonated Beverages in the United States

February 2007 | Sales of bottled water in the U.S. are going up, up and up.  In the three years between 2002 and 2005, sales doubled from from 15 billion units sold, to 29.8 billion. This is almost seven times the 3.8 billion units sold in 1997.  At the same time, traditional fizzy drinks are losing market share. What does this all mean? More PET bottles produced, more wasted, and a smaller percentage recycled.By Jennifer Gitlitz and Pat Franklin

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Other Graphs


Bottled water sales in the U.S. (1997-2006)


Market share for major beverage categories (1997 & 2005)


Bottled water consumption in 10 countries (1999 and 2004)


877 bottles are wasted every second. Watch the video to see.

Download a full-resolution version of this video at the author's web page.




Don't Landfill, REFILL! 
There's an alternative to one-way, throwaway water bottles.  Many large retail outlets and camping supply stores carry colorful, durable plastic bottles that can be reused again and again. Read this article on Canada's Pro-refillable campaign and the initiative for an industry-standard refillable bottle [PDF, 390kB]

2)  Increase recycling of plastic water bottles by working to pass a Bottle Bill in your state! 
The 11 states that require small, refundable deposits on water bottles and other beverage containers recycle 490 beverage containers per capita annually, compared to 191 per capita in the other 39 states.  Visit our Bottle Bill Resource Guide for more information.



Littered Bottles and Cans: Higher in Virginia Than in States with Bottle Bills -  Clean Virginia Waterways of Longwood Virginia - November 2020

A Comparison of Bottled and Tap Water
A 2009 study by the Oregon DEQ found that tap water outperformed bottled water in almost all categories of environmental impact.

Tapped, the movie
A 2009 documentary on the various environmental and health impacts of bottled water

The Energy Implications of Bottled Water
A scholarly study on the energy required to produce and use bottled water [PDF,388kb]

Bottled Water and Energy: Getting to 17 Million Barrels
This short report by the Pacific Institute explains how 17 million barrels of crude oil were necessary to fuel Americans' bottled water habit in 2006.

Water, Water Everywhere
The Growth of Non-carbonated Beverages in the United States (Report by CRI)

The "True-Cost" of Exotic Bottled Waters
Pablo Päster, a sustainability engineer, calculates the energy costs of making bottled water available for sale.

From the American Water Works Association... and
Straight talk on Bottled Water [PDF, 388 kB]

About the allure of bottled water vs. drinking from the tap (From PBS Point of View--Borders... )

Inside the Bottle
The People's Campaign on the bottled water industry.  Project of the Polaris Institute designed to promote equal access to drinkable water for all people.

Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?
NRDC study on marketing, regulations and health standards, contaminants, and consumer rights

Opinion from CRI
Wouldn't it be nice if we could "hydrate" and protect the environment too? A letter from CRI's executive director, Fall 2003.


Bottled Water Alternatives

Bottled Water Alternatives
A suggestion for Zero Beverage Container Waste

Watermill Express
A company that sells purified water at drive-in stands. Customers bring their own bottles, saving money and the environment!

Pure Filtration water filters
Filtration can provide safe drinking water anywhere, without the need for single-use bottles. Pure Filtration makes water filters for a variety of uses.



Interview with author and excerpt from his book, Bottled & Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water

Australian town ‘world’s first’ to ban bottled water (By Agence-France Press, on The Raw Story)

Bottled water industry sales decrease during recession (St. Petersburg Times)

How water bottlers tap into all sorts of sources
The bottle might be impressive, but it's still just water--and chances are, it's just tap water.
(San Francisco Chronicle)

Down the drain: Plastic water bottles should no longer be a wasted resource
(Waste Management World)

Bottled Water: Pouring resources down the drain
(press release from the Earth Policy Insitute)

Message in a Bottle:
Despite the hype, bottled water is neither cleaner nor greener than tap water. (E Magazine Vol. XIV #5)

Plastic bottles pile up as mountains of waste


Learn how CRI made a difference in 2023 through high-profile initiatives, legislative analysis and advocacy, and education and collaboration.



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