Surge in Bottled Water Popularity Threatens Environment

New Report Cites Potential Crisis as Billions of Water Bottles Tossed in Trash

An on-the-go society combined with masses of health conscious consumers has turned the single serve bottle of water into a national icon. Now, according to a report released by the California Department of Conservation (CDOC), billions of these empty "icons" are causing serious environmental problems.

According to the report, more than 1 billion water bottles are winding up in the trash in California each year. That translates into nearly 3 million empty water bottles going to the trash EVERY day and an estimated $26 million in unclaimed California Refund Value (CRV) deposits annually. If recycled, the raw materials from those bottles could be used to make 74 million square feet of carpet, 74 million extra large T-shirts or 16 million sweaters, among other things. Instead, they are swallowing landfill space, increasing air pollution and destroying the ozone layer.

"The sight of a water bottle in someone's hand has become as common as a cell phone," said Darryl Young, Director of the CDOC. "In California, one is usually in the right, and the other is in the left. What people don't realize is that these water bottles are recyclable and have detrimental environmental impacts if thrown in the trash."

With their popularity increasing and summer right around the corner, single serve water bottles are poised to cause even greater environmental concerns if recycling rates go unchanged. According to the report, only 16 percent of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) water bottles sold in California are being recycled. At that rate, the amount of water bottles thrown in the trash 10 years from now would be enough to create a two lane, six-inch deep highway that stretches the entire coast of California.

"What's most discouraging is that these empty water bottles can be recycled and used for so many things," continues Young. "Recycled PET water bottles can be used as raw material to make products like sweaters, carpet, t-shirts and even products for the home."

Young feels the growing problem could be solved with a small amount of help from consumers. "The real challenge is making people aware that their water bottles are recyclable and convincing them to hold onto them until they can be recycled -- especially when it isn't always convenient. In the end, the small extra effort could help avert a big environmental problem."

Young encourages consumers to ask for recycling. "If your local gas station or convenience mart doesn't offer a recycling bin, ask them to put one in. If there's not a recycling program at work, start one up. Most important, hold on to that container until you can recycle it."

California is one of 10 states with a beverage container-recycling program based on a minimum deposit or value placed on beverage containers. The Department of Conservation administers the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, which became law in 1986.

California Department of Conservation

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