To encourage environmentally responsible practices, the City of Sunnyvale developed a zero waste policy prohibiting the purchase of single-serving bottled water with city funds. Limited exceptions may apply if there is no practical or reasonable alternative, if approved by the City Manager, or in the case of public safety emergencies.
As part of the City’s overall environmental sustainability efforts, the City Council requested a bottled water study. At the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June 2008, a vote was taken to phase out the regular use of bottled water for employees and at municipal functions. More than 60 mayors country-wide have taken measures to reduce or eliminate bottled water use. On August 26, 2008 Sunnyvale joined the ranks of cities with similar policies, which include San Francisco, San Jose, Miami, Seattle and Austin. Celebrity chefs, such as the Bay area’s own Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, have banished bottled water from their restaurants.
Why has bottled water come under scrutiny? One reason is the cost. Bottled water costs 1,000 times more than tap water, up to $4 a gallon. Cost of tap water? One cent a gallon! Ironically, 25%-40% of all bottled water comes from municipal sources--tap water. And, while municipal water is regularly tested for contaminants, according to the FDA, “Companies that market bottled water as being safer than tap water are defrauding the American public.”
In the United States, a billion bottles of water a week are transported on ships, trains and trucks. That is the equivalent of a weekly convoy of 37,000 18-wheel tractor-trailers. Consider, too, that 1.5 million barrels of oil is used annually to produce water bottles for America alone, enough to fuel some 100,000 cars for a year. National Geographic says to “imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That’s about how much oil was needed to produce the bottle.”
Then there are disposal costs. In 2005, 38 billion single-serving plastic bottles were sold in the U.S. According to NBC News, if laid end-to-end, they would encircle the Earth 150 times. Cities spend an estimated $70 million dollars a year to dispose of plastic bottles. The Container Recycling Institute estimates that fewer than one-fourth are recycled. Most water bottles end up in landfills where the plastic may decompose into tiny toxic pieces after hundreds of years. Along with plastic bags, plastic bottles are one of the most frequent sources of pollution to our beaches and waterways.
What can you do? Take back the tap! Bring your own reusable bottle and save money, too!
Back to Garbage, Recycling and Waste Reduction