Bottled water: Convenience outweighs concerns over plastic bottles

By LEA WEISHAAR

Water consumption is no longer just an unavoidable aspect of daily life. Or rather that is what some luxury water corporations would have you believe. Name brands such as Bling H20 and Veen have helped shine a whole new light on water. With their help, water is no longer a mere necessity. It has been transformed into a booming commodity.

This commodity is no longer strictly domestic either, thanks to our global community. Today, someone in rural Wisconsin is able to sample the crisp, clean taste of water direct from the French Alps. They are even able to indulge in the fresh and exotic flavors of Fiji water. All it takes is a quick trip to your local retailer since, like the water market, their shelves are expanding. Or at least it may seem that way.

“Water has definitely taken more room. It first started with gallons, then liters,” stated Christie Seerund, an assistant manager at Walgreens. With over 17 years experience in the retail industry, she’s seen firsthand the transformation that has taken place. The 15-packs of water grew to 24-packs. The trucks started bringing in hundreds of bottles of water every week. Sales and advertisements emerged, creating a push for the product.

“Now I’ll put it in my daughter’s lunches,” Seerund added, after confessing she doesn’t drink much water herself. “I think for people who drink water it’s convenient.”

And convenience is fast becoming an important factor in choosing beverages. Today’s on-the-go American craves a drink that is portable, healthy and thirst-quenching. That is why many beverages come in easy to carry 20-ounce bottles. These very bottles are another indication of just how massive the water industry has become.

Krones is an international company located in Franklin, Wis. According to its website, Krones specializes in “new bottling, labeling and packing concepts.” In short, part of Krones’ business is designing and producing the bottles we see in stores. However, their business is not focused solely on the bottled water industry. They also serve other beverage and food markets. This type of detail is where bottled water’s impact on the market can be measured.

“They’ve been in it since before I started,” stated John Vincent, a Krones employee and LCS operation supervisor who deals in mold manufacturing production and programming. “It’s been like 11 years,” he specified.

But how much of their production actually is created for the water industry?

“Something like 40 percent is used for water,” Vincent said. “The rest is soda and other stuff like that. Also, dish soap, salad dressing, et cetera.” This statistic further illustrates water’s hold over the beverage industry. However, it is this very statistic that has some consumers seeking other options.

Meg Garland, a post-graduate student pursing her teaching certificate at Mount Mary, is an avid and well-informed advocate for water consumption. “I have a gallon bottle I fill and drink throughout the day,” she stated when questioned on her hydration habits. Unlike many, Garland is aware of the environmental and monetary exhaustion created when purchasing bottled water. “Rarely do I buy bottled water … We feel at my house it is such a waste,” she added.

Consider this. In today’s economic climate, a 20-ounce bottle of name brand water can sell for upwards of $1.19, depending on location. This doesn’t sound too terrible until we consider the alternative. According to Milwaukee Water Works, a company which supplies over ten counties with drinking water, 5.8 gallons of water from the tap would cost a consumer just one cent. Even on sale, your local retailer just can’t beat this price. So why aren’t more people considering this option?

“They’re just hopping on some sort of bandwagon,” ventures Garland. “People don’t think about the price of water.” And this price is not strictly budget-related, either. Transforming water from a necessity into a commodity has an enormous environmental price (and think long-term).

In creating such a convenient product, waste is inevitably going to be a byproduct. Once the water is consumed, the bottle has to go somewhere. Unfortunately, these bottles, more often than not, end up littering the streets rather than being recycled. Even more unfortunate is the fact that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, plastic bottles can take around 450 years to decompose. Even with the new containers, which require less plastic to create the bottle, the environmental impact is undeniable.

However, when all is said and done, the consumer is the one who dictates production. In today’s throwaway society, convenience, rather than price, is key. Faucets aren’t portable. Buying a bottle of water at the store is faster than washing, refilling and remembering to bring your own. Name brands are slowly creating a social status with every sip. And that is how a commodity was created. Despite environmental impact, the convenience and usefulness of water helped turn it into the valuable product on store shelves today.

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