the story of bottled water

I missed World Water Day, but this excellent video is relevant every day. From the good people who brought us The Story of Stuff, comes The Story of Bottled Water.

We were in Peru in 2006. The water is not drinkable there, not for anyone for any reason. The very rich have filtration systems in their homes; everyone else boils water for a full 10 minutes before using it for anything.

For tourists, which is a big chunk of the Peruvian economy, there is bottled water. Women sell it along the roadside, at train stations, in parking lots - everywhere there are tourists, there are women selling bottled water. They sell it cheap (by tourist standards) and cold.

In many places where tourists are gathering, it's hot and very dry, and it's important to stay hydrated. You simply have no choice. You have to buy bottled water everywhere. And you can't refill the bottles, because you can't drink the tap water.

And... plastic is not recycled. Only glass is recycled. We were there for three weeks, in all areas of the country except the Amazon. I only saw glass bottles once.

So millions of tourists are drinking millions of litres of bottled water and tossing away the bottles. Where are the bottles going? What is happening to all this plastic? It really troubled me; I think about it still.

I also wonder if the bottled-water industry in Peru is preventing or obstructing clean-water projects from going forward. Various politicians campaign on a "clean water for all Peruanos" ticket... but nothing changes.

I don't know the answer to these questions, but I know we in North America can drink tap water, filtered if necessary. Every once in a while I still have to buy a bottle of water - because I'm out somewhere without my own water, and I need to drink, and I only drink water or coffee. Then I try, as I'm sure you do, too, to reuse the bottle as many times as possible, and I hope my recycling actually gets recycled.

But there are still people all over North America buying massive quantities of bottled water for their own refrigerators. Hard to believe, but true. Here's hoping some of them see this video.

The Story of Bottled Water.

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