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Bottled Water Battle: Industry Mocks Students For Protesting [Video]

Bottled water

A battle against bottled water has emerged in recent years, and college students around the U.S. have been campaigning to have bottle water banned from college campuses. Unsurprisingly, the massive bottled water industry doesn’t like it one bit.

The International Bottle Water Association (IBWA) has produced the following, rather patronizing, video putting forward its position. The video first mocks and attempts to trivialise student attempts at protesting about bottled water. It compares the campaign to protest movements such as civil rights, freedom of speech, anti-war protests, Darfur, tuition fee hikes, education funding cuts, and sweatshop labor. As Grist has pointed out, the list doesn’t include any environmental protests. Funny, that.

The IBWA also argues that bottle water is healthy, as it’s sugar-free, caffeine-free, and that bottled water makes up only .03 percent of the waster stream in the United States. That makes it seem like not much, but plastic bottles and containers make up the largest portoin of plastic waste, according to the EPA. In any case, anyone who has been outside in the world, near local waterways, beaches, parks, or anywhere people go really, knows “disposable” plastic drink bottles, including water, are a significant problem, right?

After all, how difficult is it to switch to carrying your own reusable water bottle around with you, instead of buying bottled water? Do you think the fact that the industry, which is a $10.6 billion a year (in 2010) industry, has quite a bit at stake here? No wonder they are trying to convince people to keep drinking bottle water. Mind you, it doesn’t look like they spent much money on the production of the video.

Of course, the IBWA ends with the whole issue being about freedom of choice. Cue tugging of American heartstrings, that always works, for everything, right? The IBWA president has said that “It’s not a tap water versus bottle water issue”, the industry just wants students to have the option. Ahhh, sweet freedom, tastes great.

What do you think about bottled water? Should it be banned, or the industry be restricted in some way; or should people be left to make their own decisions about whether or not to buy widely available bottled water? Would an environmental education campaign of some sort be a better way to go? Mind you, who would fund it sufficiently, given that it would be up against a multi-billion dollar industry?

via NPR
Image CC licensed by Jon Gibbins:

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  • Anonymous

    Moderately amused to see that the first ‘related article’ is about Pepsico’s plant based bottles (yes, yes, it’s still non-biodegradable PET, but still).

    While not wanting to sound completely in support of the IBWA’s campaign, I personally think the crusade against bottled water is over-focused. It’s like the campaign for free speech being focused on the freedom to say ‘fuck’.  Sure, you might win that battle, but you’ve missed the opportunity to win a wider victory.

    The real issue here is convenience packaging, isn’t it? It’s not tap-vs-bottle, it’s the waste that occurs when we have our consumables packaged in single serving sizes.

    That suggests at least two avenues of attack that would address the wider problem, without drawing the ridicule that the bottled water campaign does.”
    1) Develop a biodegradable packaging. I don’t know how well that works with fluids, especially mildly acidic ones like soft drinks. I’ll leave that for the smart people.
    2) Focus on changing the single-serve culture. It’s the harder of the two, and apart from moral suasion, I’m not sure how you’d go about it.  There’s already an economy of scale in effect: The same volume of water or soda in small bottles is much more expensive than the larger bottles (Case in point, in NZ, a 600ml coke is NZD $3.80, while a 1.5 litre bottle – from the same store – might be NZD $4.50.  If I shop around, I can regularly get it as low as a dollar a litre).
    3) Focus on the recycling, and making sure the bottles _are_ recycled.  Even offering a bounty, though, you run into the convenience factor: “Do I really care enough for the ten cents I’d get, to carry this around all day? Nah.” _Someone_ might make money out of the deal, but you’d have to pay well over what the materials value is worth.

    It’s also an eminent example of a ‘first-world-problem’, as – as far as I can tell – there’s no opposition at all to bottled water in areas where the local supplies are not as potable as they are on University Campuses.

  • http://www.the9billion.com/ John Johnston

    Thanks Michael, I certainly take your points. Perhaps the students see a specific battle like this as easier to tackle, rather than the whole war at once, so to speak. The whole war is pretty huge these days. Dare I say, many movements have started with small, specific actions and have spread wider by bringing attention to those actions.  

    Yes, the bigger issue is convenience, single use, “disposable” packaging. I think the tap vs bottled water issue, for the most part, is just used as a marketing tool to sell water by the bottle – and clever it is. I read not long ago that the disposable cup (dixie cups) market started in a similar way back at the beginning of the 20th century in the U.S. There was a real fear of germs at public water supplies, where people used to share glasses or dippers. The ice-cooled water-vending machine was invented, with disposable dixie cups. Now disposable cups are used by the many billions per year. I don’t think the inventor envisage that, but I’d be willing to bet the bottle water marketing folks borrowed that idea directly, using the fear of tap water not being as safe.

    Also, it may be a ‘first world problem’ in the way that you mention, but plastic pollution affects the whole world, especially via the oceans. The so called ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’, which is really a massive toxic soup rather than garbage floating on the top, is a prime example of this http://bit.ly/zQH4LF

  • miranda

    Bottled water should be banned in the United States and in any other country with safe drinking water.