Bottled Water Facts – Environmental Impact

August 10, 2015 by Andrew Moorey

Bottled Water Facts - Environmental LitterThe next time you are out for a run, a walk or bike ride, count how many empty and discarded plastic water bottles you see. I've done it and it's mind boggling. I've filled up entire grocery bags with empty bottles from a single lunch-time walk in a variety of urban and downtown areas near our offices in Thunder Bay, ON.

And while it's great to see 50 water bottles to every 1 pop bottle as a sign that people are switching to healthier drinks, the environmental impact that bottled water is having on our shared environment is real. Keep reading for key bottled water facts that we've pulled together from a long list of reputable sources.

From the creation of the plastic bottle itself to the transportation of the finished product to stores, offices and homes, bottled water has a significant and well documented impact on our environment.

Bottled Water Facts Report by EluaThe amount of natural resources consumed and the pollution created by the production and transport of bottled water is out of balance with its benefits.

Elua was created to help all of us reduce our carbon footprint by offering sustainable alternatives to bottled water without sacrificing taste, quality or convenience. Our philosophy? Great tasting, safe drinking water with a conscience.

Click here to learn more about what we're doing about bottled water and our environment.


Bottled Water Facts - Plastic Bottles & The Environment

Most bottled water is sold in single-use, plastic bottles. Here are some bottled water facts about the environmental impact of these plastic bottles:

  • Nearly 50 billion new PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottles were produced in 2005 from virgin rather than recycled materials. (10)
  • The Pacific Institute estimated that approximately one million tons of PET were produced to make the plastic bottles consumed in the United States in 2007 and three million tons were produced globally. (4)
  • In 2004, only 14.5 percent of non-carbonated beverage bottles made from PET were recycled. (10)
  • The Earth Policy Institute reported in 2007 that manufacturing the 29 billion plastic bottles used for water in the United States each year requires the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of crude oil. (3)

Bottled Water Facts - Getting the Water Into the Bottle and Onto the Shelf

Bottled water takes an incredible amount of back-end work and logistics before it ends up on the shelf of your local grocery store or your front step before being loaded onto your water cooler. Here are a few bottled water facts about the impact this industry has on our environment:

  • Americans bought a total of 8.8 billion gallons of bottled water in 2007. According to one estimate, producing these bottles produced over 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. This is the same amount of carbon dioxide that would be emitted by over 400,000 passenger vehicles in one year. (10)
  • Bottled water brands Evian and Volvic travel over 6,200 miles in order to get onto shelves in San Francisco, USA. Fiji and Voss travel over 5,000 miles to reach San Francisco. (9)
  • The total carbon footprint of one 500 mL bottle of water in North America is 82.8g of CO2 (1). This includes the PET bottle, distribution and transportation, retail energy use and the corrugated tray but does not include recycling. In comparison, driving a compact car like the Nissan Versa produces 254 grams per mile of CO2 thus every case of 24 bottles consumed is the equivalent of the emissions produced by driving 7.8 miles. (2)
  • The Pacific Institute estimates that the annual consumption of bottled water in the US in 2007 required an energy input equivalent to between 32 and 54 million barrels of oil or a third of a per cent of total US primary energy consumption. (4)

Bottled Water Facts - Where Do All Those Plastic Bottles Go Anyway?

  • Each day in the US more than 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away – a total of about 22 billion in 2006. Most end up in landfills or incinerators, and millions litter American’s streets, parks and waterways. Six times as many plastic water bottles were thrown away in the US in 2004 as in 1997. (8)
  • While well developed systems for recycling PET bottles exists in the U.S., recycling rates have been falling for a decade, and in 2006 only 23% of PET bottles sold were recycled (NAPCOR, 2007). The remaining bottles end up in a landfill, amounting to roughly 4 billion pounds of bottles per year (Kchao, 2008). (6)
  • The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is an area of the ocean between Hawaii and California that collects floating debris and garbage from North America and Asia. Within the gyre, scientists have collected 1,900,000 bits of plastic in a single square mile. No one knows how much debris makes up the entire patch. The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is about 7 million square miles in size.(3)
  • According to NAPCOR, US exports to countries like China of scrap PET bottles increased from 143 million pounds (65 millino kg) in 1998 to 298 million pounds (135 million kg) in 2004. (8)

Bottled Water Facts - What About 100% Compostable Corn Based PLA Plastic Water Bottles?

  • Corn based resin, known as polylactic acid (PLA) is significantly better than oil based plastics however; its claim of being 100% compostable is only based on commercial composting in advanced, high heat facilities. Only 150 such facilities exist in the US which means most PLA bottles end up in regular recycling facilities which cannot “compost” the bottle or landfill sites. A PLA bottle will last as long as a PET plastic bottle disposed of in a standard landfill site. (11)
  • In their report titled “Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) Summary for PLA and PET 12-Ounce Water Bottles” prepared for the PET Resin Association, Franklin Associates stated:
      1. The PLA water bottles require significantly more total and net energy than the PET water bottle systems (with or without the inclusion of recycling).
      2. The postconsumer solid waste is higher for the PLA water bottle compared to a PET water bottle including recycling. The postconsumer solid waste for the PET water bottles with no recycling is considered equivalent to that of the PLA water bottles.
      3. The carbon dioxide equivalent totals (GHG) for all systems (PLA and PET) are within 5 percent of each other and so are not considered significantly different. (5)

    Looking for more Bottled Water Facts?

    Start by checking out this page of our website which is loaded with information and printable reports. If you are still hungry for even more bottled water facts, you'll love the following movies and books filled with all kinds of bottled water facts and data.

    Fiji Spin the BottleFiji: Spin the Bottle
    The latest from the military dictatorship that benefits from progressives’ favorite water.
    Author: Anna Lenzer | September/October 2009 Issue Mother Jones


    H2Uh-Oh H2Uh-Oh
    From Arrowhead to Volvic, Fiji’s not the only bottled water with a PR challenge.
    Author: By Jen Quraishi | September/October 2009 Issue Mother Jones



    How Far Did Voss and San Pellegrino Travel to My Whole Foods?How Far Did Voss and San Pellegrino Travel to My Whole Foods?
    We charted the miles per bottle for nine top water brands.
    Author: Jen Quraishi | September/October 2009 Issue Mother Jones



    tapped the movieTapped - the Movie
    Tapped examines the role of the bottled water industry and its’ effects on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil. Includes some great bottled water facts presented in a truly riveting documentary. Grab some friends and popcorn, this is a good one folks.


    story of bottled waterThe Story of Bottled Water
    The Story of Bottled Water tells the story of manufactured demand—how you get Americans to buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows from the tap. Don't be duped by the bottled water industry, get the inside bottled water facts so you make an educated decision when faced with bottled water.


    Bottlemania examines the state of tap water today (you may be surprised), and the social impact of water-hungry multinationals sinking ever more pumps into tiny rural towns. A great collection of bottled water facts from another perspective.



    garbage landGarbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash
    In Garbage Land, acclaimed science writer Elizabeth Royte leads us on the wild adventure that begins once our trash hits the bottom of the can. A great read including lots of bottled water facts.



    bottled and soldBottled and Sold
    A world-renowned scientist and freshwater expert, Peter Gleick is a MacArthur Foundation “genius,” and according to the BBC, an environmental visionary. While we believe that tap water can be made better before drinking, if you're looking for bottled water facts, this is a must read.


    Know Someone That Needs Help Kicking Their Bottled Water Habit? Send or share this list of bottled water facts.

    You deserve better water. So does your family, your pocketbook and this planet we call home.

    Click here to shop our amazing collection of reusable and shatterproof glass water bottles, all-natural drink mix and water flavours, home water filtration systems and so much more.


    1. “Research on the Carbon Footprint of Bottled Water” - June 2012- Beverage Industry Environmental Round Table
    2. http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/climate.shtml
    3. Larson, J “Bottled Water Boycotts: Back to the Tap Movement Gains Momentum”, 2007 Earth Policy Institute
    4. Gleick, P.H, Cooley, H.S “Energy Implications of Bottled Water” – Pacific Institute – IOP publishing – Environmental Research Letters, Lett 4 : 2009
    5. Franklin Associates a Division of Eastern Research Group INC, “LCI Summary for PLA and PET 12oz Water Bottles”, and Prairie Village, Kansas December 2007
    6. Dettore, C “Comparative Life-Cycle Assessment of Bottled vs. Tap Water Systems” A report of the Center for Sustainable Systems, 2009, Report No. CSS09-11
    7. Pacific Institute, 2007 http://www.pacinst.org/publication/bottled-water-and-energy-a-fact-sheet/
    8. Franklin, P. “Down the Drain”, Waste Management World, May-June, 2006 http://www.container- recycling.org/assets/pdfs/media/2006-5-WMW-DownDrain.pdf
    9. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/09/how-far-did-voss-and-san-pellegrino-travel-my-whole-foods
    10. Think Outside the Bottle: the Responsible Purchasing Guide to Bottled Water Alternatives is a joint effort by the Responsible Purchasing Network and Corporate Accountability International. Lead Author: Courtney Godwin, Responsible Purchasing Network
    11. http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/?ar_a=1
    12. Corn Plastic to the Rescue http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/plastic.html?c=y&page=1


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