Sunday, July 29, 2007

Do Bottled Water Containers Hurt the Environment?; Are Critics Merely "Following the Money?"

Recent Discussion About Bottled Water Mirrors Recycling

Correlations:
Bottle Water and Recycling: .93
Aquafina and "Tap Water" = .88
Dasani and "Tap Water" = .93
Aquafina and recycling = .89
Dasani and recycling = .94

There has been a huge spike in the amount of discussion about bottled water since mid-June 2007. Interestingly, discussion about bottled water correlates highly with discussion about recycling [see above]. Additionally, there is a rise in media coverage relating to this issue. For example, there was an article at CNN on Friday, July 27, 2007. Some key themes mentioned in the article which mirror consumers’ discussion about bottled water include:

1. New Aquafina labels saying that bottled water made with tap water
2. Maker Pepsi says it's reasonable to say where water comes from
3. Critics of bottled water say containers are wasteful
4. Many buyers say bottled water is more convenient

I ran a few correlations which turned out to be extremely high. Interestingly, consumers discussion about bottle water correlates rather high with recycling. This is mostly due to consumers expostulating over that fact that bottled water containers (i.e. plastic bottles) are extremely wasteful. And while I agree that water containers are wasteful, I do not feel critics arguing are looking at all the facts. Soda, milk and beer are also sold in plastic containers among others. Therefore, I ask two questions.

1. Why is all the recent hype about bottled water only?
2. Why are Pepsi (Aquafina) and Coca-Cola (Dasani) brought up most within media coverage and consumers discussion online?

Personally, I feel their are a lot of critics taking aim at Pepsi and Coca-Cola since they feel the companies are making a lot of money selling tap water. A co-worker of mine brought up a similar situation that occurred in the late 80's/early 90's which makes a lot of sense to me. The cardboard/paperboard industry started attacking plastic milk jugs as "health hazards" because they claimed that see-through milk containers (plastic) made vitamins leach out of the milk quicker than if milk came in cartons, which protected milk from sunlight/exposure by not being see-through. The first waves of PR/media coverage were about the "negative health effects of plastic containers for milk," but it wasn't until someone dug deeper that it became apparent the cardboard/paperboard industry was behind the campaign. They were trying to convince milk producers to keep using cardboard when everybody was switching to plastic. My co-worker went on to say, "Who's behind this one attacking plastic containers again? Aluminum can companies? Just a thought ("follow the money" is always a good ideas when these sorts of things hit)." And I couldn't agree more.

Consumers complaining about negative effects of plastic containers on our environment should do more to push things that better our environment such as recycling, alternative fuels and solar power. Consumers like to be motivated. Unfortunately, helping the environment is not important to a lot of people. Many consumers find it expensive and inconvenient. For example, recycling centers are few and far between where I live. I have to drive 20-30 miles out of my way to drop off recyclable goods. Additionally, it costs extra money to sign up for recycling services where I live (which I pay by the way). My point is that critics and consumers looking to improve the environment should lobby for reasons to get people excited about helping the environment (i.e. incentives, tax benefits, etc). I think we are moving in the right direction. Owners of hybrid vehicles are now able to get tax benefits. Likewise, consumers and businesses should be reward for doing other things to help the environment (i.e. installing solar power panels on a home or business instead of using electricity, volunteering in a community clean up project, ride share, etc...). And don't get me wrong, big business has a certain amount of social responsibility to help keep the environment safe and clean. However, going after businesses should not be only recourse. We should all be "thinking green" and "doing our share for cleaner air."

1 comment:

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