The Bet on PET: bottled or tap water?

photo credit: allergyandair.com

Nirmal Jivan Shah, The People Newspaper, 12/12/2007: Bottled water is the world’s fastest growing beverage. This means that the disposal cost of empty bottles is becoming an environmental and financial nightmare. A report from the World Watch Institute says that the energy costs of producing, bottling, packing, storing and distributing bottled water are also enormous.

With the creation of the PET bottle recycling scheme, Seychelles has taken a major step in addressing the environmental costs of disposal. All preformed PET bottles imported into the country are now taxed, with some of that tax used as a refund deposit.

Bottles are shredded and packed for re-export where it is presumed the plastic will be recycled. Recycled PET can be used for a number of items. Planks made in the UK from this material have been used in the Roche Caiman Sanctuary for a boardwalk. But the recycling of PET bottles is on a downturn in many countries. In the United States only 23 percent of PET bottles are recycled.

RELATED ARTICLE: Danger in the Bottle

 PET bottles being processed at the Providence plant (photo credit-Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency)

Will that interest the average consumer who just wants safe water to drink? Experts agree that in most parts of the world bottled water may be scrutinized using lower standards than municipal water. In addition, bottled water costs 240 to 10,000 times that of water straight from the tap. In Seychelles where a liter of bottled water costs from 7 Rupees up, PUC water, as it is called, costs about 20 cents a liter.

Well, what about the taste and safety? PUC water not only goes through gravel and sand bed filters but is chlorinated to kill microorganisms. Water destined to be bottled is purified using ozone and UV (ultraviolet light). This means that PUC water because it contains chlorine will usually have the same anti-microbial properties at all times, whilst water to be bottled can potentially be contaminated the moment it leaves the filtration process.

 The Board Walk at The Sanctuary in Roche Caiman - planks made from recycled PET bottles

Another different property of PUC water is the Ph. This is the measurement of acid and alkaline. Water from our hills is naturally acidic. PUC buffers this water with limestone to achieve a more balanced Ph. This is not done for bottled water.

The desalinated water is creating its own issues, mostly because of the taste and environmental costs (the process uses large amounts of energy). The desalinated water has 96% of salt removed and is further mixed with normal surface water in the dams. The reverse osmosis membranes also remove microorganisms. PUC experts insist that taste is something that is acquired and not necessarily a measure of quality.

With all that in mind, dear reader, I leave the choice to you: bottle or tap water?

RELATED ARTICLE: Danger in the Bottle

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