By now, most people should know that disposable plastic water bottles are horribly wasteful and bad for the environment. Despite this, however, the production and use of water bottles is growing rapidly in virtually every country in the world. Just 20 years ago the market for plastic water bottles was practically nonexistent, yet today we produce billions and billions of these completely unnecessary products. There can be only one sane response, plastic water bottles must be banned.
The plastic in water bottles is made from oil, and the industry manufacturing these billions of bottles is, in most cases, powered by fossil fuels. At a time when global warming is accelerating, and the effects are starting to be felt, this process is producing millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year, and that's only in the US. Of course, these billions of bottles are also transported all over the world, generating even more emissions.
Recycling is not the answer here, reduction and reuse must come first. The recycling of water bottles uses even more energy and generates more emissions, for a product that is completely unnecessary in the first place. In many cases, the plastic is not recycled into new bottles, in any event, so the factories continue to pump out more bottles.
Another problem is that a lot of extra water is needed during manufacturing. For every litre of bottled water produced, two additional litres are consumed in the production process. In many areas of the world, fresh water is in short supply, and in some countries groundwater is rapidly depleting. There is no good reason to waste valuable drinking water in order to simply make drinking water!
Waste is another major factor. There are billions and billions of plastic bottles going to landfill sites, but unfortunately that's not the only place they end up. Forests, roads and the countryside are all littered with plastic garbage. The ocean also contains massive amounts of plastic waste. Both on land and sea this plastic is breaking down and being eaten by animals and fish and making its way through the food chain.
The solution is simple and obvious, bottled water must be banned. Of course, some specialized products would still be allowed, but nothing designed for mass consumption can be permitted. Some towns and localities have already passed laws banning water bottles, but it needs to happen now at the national level. This would need to include a ban on the production and sale of water bottles within a nation's borders, and it should be made illegal for any domestic corporation to engage in such production, anywhere in the world.
Copenhagen is coming up soon, and the pressure is increasing on world leaders to reach a strong agreement. They have a great opportunity here to sign an international accord banning water bottles in all countries. Afterwards, they should implement this ban in each of their countries within a few months. This would achieve some real emissions reduction and pave the way for further agreements in the future.