Refresh your perspective on water bottles

An easy environmental target, water bottles offer benefits around the globe that occasionally receive media attention.


Many a scribe has written about the evils of water bottles. A quick example: National Geographic Kids’ report saying that if you fill an empty water bottle up one-quarter of the way it’s representative of how much oil it took to produce the bottle.

In National Geographic’s April 2010 special issue, “Water, Our Thirsty World,” there’s actually a one-page energy-focused news story and photo showing a bunch of plastic bottles (with labels stripped off) lying flat on a makeshift “table” in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya.

The copy reads: “Retrieve a discarded water bottle. Tear off the label and fill with any water that’s not too murky from a creek, standpipe, or puddle. Place the bottle on a piece of metal in full sun. In six hours the UVA radiation will kill viruses, bacteria, and parasites in the water, making it safe to drink.”

The story refers to a Swiss-pioneered water-disinfection program called SODIS, a solar water disinfection process. Online videos help explain the process.

Packaging—and water bottles in particular--have long been an environmental bulls-eye for the press, but there’s a need for balance. As Healthcare Packaging Publisher Jim Chrzan wrote early this year in “Packaging’s curse—bad press blues,” “packaging has been suggested as one of the most effective tools for ending world hunger. Many companies are investing millions in source reduction--thinner container walls, post-recycled content. It's easy to take swipes at bottled water. What do you think the people of Haiti think about bottled water now?”

Or, for that matter, how appreciative of water bottles are our military personnel positioned around the globe?

More in Materials & containers